International Day for Disaster Reduction 2013

October 14, 2013


Privilege Speech

International Day for Disaster Reduction 2013

Senate Session Hall

14 October 2013


Mr. President,


As our nation strives for equitable socio-economic development amid many recurring calamities, it is essential that we preserve our development gains through disaster risk reduction.


My advocacies through the years have been founded on this — to protect the environment, to reduce disaster risk, and to adapt to climate change towards a more resilient Philippines.


However, with the unabated rise in disaster losses, about 18-fold increase in economic losses since the 1970s, all sectors of our society must come together now and respond as one against disaster risk.


Congress has done its crucial work:  New laws on disaster risk reduction and climate change, which the United Nations has hailed as model legislation, now prevail. And the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into our development processes is now a national policy.


Yet much remains to be done to realize the benefits these laws ought to bring, especially to the poor and the vulnerable who are most in need of help and protection against disasters and most deserving of participation in resilience building.  The persons with disabilities are among them.


When Typhoon Pablo ravaged several provinces in Mindanao in December 2012, about ten percent (10%) of the families affected had members with disabilities.[1]  In the town of Maragusan, Compostela Valley alone, 69 persons with disabilities suffered from the impact of the typhoon.[2]


In Japan, the great earthquake and tsunami of 2011 killed tens of thousands of people, more than a thousand of them were persons with disabilities.[3]


This neglected vulnerability conveys an important message to policy and lawmakers like us: Our grand yearning for inclusive growth is meaningless when the humble yearning of the marginalized persons with disabilities remains unheard and unheeded.


This social exclusion that keeps the disabled person weak and vulnerable in times of disaster should come to an end.


We must reach out to them: In the Philippines, there are about one million Filipinos living with disability. All over the world, there are about a billion of them.



It is in this regard that the world observes this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13, with the theme, Living with Disability and Disasters.


The observance highlights the importance of involving persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the efforts to reduce risk and build resilient communities.


The recent survey[4] by the United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) among persons with disabilities revealed that 86% of them have never participated in disaster risk reduction (DRR) planning; 73% do not have any personal disaster protection plan; while only 27.5% feel that their needs are addressed in local and community DRR plans.[5]


In the same survey, some Filipino respondents shared that the national risk reduction plan is just for normal functioning individuals, that persons with disabilities are never invited to any consultations or initiatives pertaining to the issues they encounter during disasters and emergency situations, and that disaster risk reduction and management plans are prepared for the general public while there are no details on how to address the specific needs of persons with disabilities.


The persons with disabilities have spoken through this survey.  We must continue to listen more and know more about their needs, about their challenges and about their abilities to cope and to take part in disaster risk reduction efforts.


Although they are twice more likely to lose their lives or be injured than any other person, their disability does not mean inability. Actually, they can be and should be active partners in making communities safer and more resilient.


In the Philippines, the Handicap International helps local governments promote disaster risk management that is disability-inclusive. It has helped communities like Barangay Pagsangahan in San Miguel, Catanduanes, where barangay officials encourage persons with disabilities to take part in disaster preparedness programs. It also helped build an evacuation center that is accessible to persons with disabilities.[6] We wish to see more of these good practices at the community level.


Advancing the cause for the disabled can be done more effectively. We have the laws that support the cause. These include:


– The Accessibility Law (R.A. 344), which requires that certain buildings, establishments and public utilities must be made accessible to PWDs.


– The Magna Carta for Disabled People (R.A. 7277), which ensures that PWDs enjoy the same rights as other citizens.


– The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act (R.A. 10121), which mandates that vulnerable and marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, should be capacitated to be able to avert, prepare for and respond to the effects of disasters.


Let us engage the persons with disabilities in reducing disaster risk.  Let us engage them in assessing vulnerabilities, and in establishing effective early warning systems in the communities, together with civil society groups concerned.


I believe that good practices in reducing disaster risk and adapting to climate change abound in our country.  They should be known and shared to other communities if we are to build a resilient society.


In this connection, I would also like to take this opportunity to announce the start of a year-long search for the first recipients of the Philippine Resilience Award -– a joint undertaking of the UNISDR, the Senate Committee on Climate Change, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, that will recognize exemplary champions of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the country.  This includes individuals and local government units.


This recognition system shall showcase local best practices on DRR and CCA, including the successful and exemplary implementation by the LGUs of the various related laws like the Solid Waste Management Act, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, and the Climate Change Act. It is hoped that the award will inspire and encourage our local communities to strengthen further their resilience.


Through the UNISDR, I also wish to call on other nations to create their own Resilience Awards. Time is of the essence. We need to scale up our efforts in building our defenses against the effects of disasters and climate change. The Resilience Awards will be an effective tool to encourage national and local governments to take immediate action in reducing disaster risk.


In closing, I wish to re-emphasize that disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are fundamental prerequisites of inclusive, resilient, and sustainable development that our nation strives for.  Thus, they equally deserve our commitment.


To preserve our gains, to remain focused, and to advance the cause of building the resilience of communities is the only path forward.


With faith in God and our people, we must take this path and face squarely the many challenges ahead for the benefit of our generation today and tomorrow.


Thank you, Mr. President.




[1] Typhoon Bopha survivors languish in ‘uninhabitable’ homes as funding shortfall stalls recovery efforts; International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), 25 March 2013

[2] Maragusan town: back on track after 15-days’ isolation post-Pablo; MindaNews, 20 January 2013

[3] Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Persons and Information and Communication Technology in the Face of the Great East Japan Earthquake; Dr. Jo Matsuzaki, Ph.D., Miyagi University of Education, Associate Professor

[4] 5,450 people from 126 countries responded.


[6] Lessons Learned from the project: Mainstreaming Disability into Disaster Risk Management Initiatives in Indonesia and Philippines; Handicap International