IPU Parliamentary Meeting: Improving Legislation for Disaster Risk Reduction

March 13, 2015

Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction

Statement of Senator Loren Legarda

IPU Parliamentary Meeting:

Improving Legislation for Disaster Risk Reduction

13 March 2015 | Sendai, Japan



My fellow parliamentarians,


It is my distinct honor and pleasure to speak before you today.


Through many decades, the complexity of the development problems in our world has been widely examined for insights into better approaches and solutions. Yet, the problems have persisted and the tasks for well-intentioned development leaders have become even more daunting as ever.


Our world is wrought with danger. Disasters abound and they are getting bigger and deadlier. We have seen many times the impact of natural hazard extremes and the prevalence of disaster risk, exacerbated by climate change. They kill thousands of families, wipe out cities and communities, and undo years of development gains.


The years from 2000 to 2011 saw 1.1 million people perish and another 2.7 billion individuals suffer due to disasters.  Disasters caused 1.3 Trillion US dollars worth of economic damage worldwide.[1]These disasters did not only bring death and destruction. Their impacts were so disproportionately felt by the poor and marginalized. Disasters have become one of the main threats to sustainable development on a global scale, but good disaster preparedness lowers risks.


Since the last decade, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) has served as nations’ guide towards addressing the risks and building resilience to disasters. Five priority actions were set out towards “substantially reducing disaster losses, in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries.”


Today, as before we even adopt the successor to the HFA, it would be prudent to ask: How far have we gone in achieving the goals of the HFA?


Among the five priority actions of the HFA, making disaster risk reduction a policy priority and strengthening institutions has progressed the most.[2] However, translating policies into action is a different issue altogether.


In its mid-term review of the HFA, the UNISDR declared, “less evident is improvement in the decentralization of responsibilities and financial resources for disaster risk reduction, as well as the systematic involvement of communities in the development of strategic plans for disaster risk reduction.”[3]


In the Philippines, we enacted the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act in 2010. This law provides for the development of action plans and the implementation of measures pertaining to all aspects of disaster risk reduction and management, including good governance, risk assessment and early warning, knowledge building and awareness raising, reducing underlying risk factors, and preparedness for effective response and early recovery.


The law created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to create a framework that will provide for a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, inter-agency and community-based approach to disaster risk reduction and management.


At the local government level, the local disaster risk reduction and management councils must ensure the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local development plans, programs and budgets as a strategy in sustainable development and poverty reduction.


Although the Philippine DRRM Law and its complementary law, the Climate Change Act, were commended as “an excellent legal framework for disaster risk reduction and an excellent legal framework for climate adaptation,”[4] we are faced with the greater challenge of actually making it work for our communities.


The allocation of funds is one of the challenges during the initial years of implementation of the PDRRM Law, which requires that five percent of a local government unit’s revenue should be set aside as the local DRRM fund — thirty percent (30%) of which is for Quick Response Fund (QRF) and seventy percent (70%) was supposed to be allocated for risk reduction and preparedness only.  Those in the front line of implementation, however, have interpreted the law differently and had included response, rehabilitation and recovery in the coverage of the budget.

This underscores the fact that a paradigm shift from response to prevention takes more than just laws to happen. It requires acceptance of the fact that we live in a new normal that requires a more pro-active mind that focuses on building resilience and preparedness.


Failure to adapt to the new normal has far reaching consequences as we experienced when our country was ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The results were devastating — 6,000 lives lost, more than 10 million suffering people, communities destroyed, and billions of pesos worth of damages in properties and business.


Following Haiyan, the Philippine government has clearly seen the importance of embracing the concept of building back better. Changes are slowly happening. What our government had previously referred to as Calamity Fund, which was intended for response, recovery and rehabilitation after disasters, has been renamed National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund starting with the 2014 National Budget.


As parliamentarians, we have the mandate to introduce change. We can create the enabling policy environment for effective disaster risk reduction. We can urge our respective governments to develop risk reduction strategies supportive of national development agenda. We can also lay the foundation for increased investment in risk reduction in order to safeguard development gains.


But beyond legislation, the greater challenge is to ensure that laws work and are fully implemented down to the community level.


As conscientious leaders of our respective nations, let us ensure effective risk governance, and strict implementation and enforcement of all laws on the environment, climate change, and disaster risk reduction.


Let us ensure that land use plans are risk-sensitive, and that our cities and human settlements are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.


Let us ensure that multi-hazard early warning systems are in place and strengthened, efficiently and effectively communicating to the public the risks from hazards and the appropriate action to take to prevent the loss of lives and livelihoods.


Let us ensure that risk assessment, contingency planning, business continuity planning, and emergency response preparedness will form part of the routine of everyone and every sector in our communities.


Let us all become champions of change for the future that we want. Let us all become victors instead of victims in this only living planet that we call home.


And, once and for all, let the lessons of past disasters be lessons well learned, and the calls for action that reverberate following every calamity be transformed into meaningful change—change in the way we think, change in the way we live, and change in the way we pursue the development and the future we long for—for all of humanity.


Thank you.


[2]  Reducing Vulnerability and Exposure to Disasters: The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2012

[3]  Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. Mid-term Review 2010-2011, UNISDR

[4]  Margareta Wahlstrom’s statement during a press conference on May 4, 2012 in the Philippines