Keynote Message: 35th National Disaster Resilience Month Culminating Activity

July 31, 2023

31 July 2023

A warm welcome to all of you as we gather today for the culminating activity of the 35th National Disaster Resilience Month this July, “Pagpupugay sa Bidang Pilipino.” I am deeply honored to stand before you and share this momentous occasion.

We come together today not only to celebrate the resilience of the Filipino spirit, ngunit para magbigay-pugay sa bidang Pilipino—the modern-day heroes who have committed to building a safer and more climate and disaster resilient nation.

The dangers of climate change to Filipino lives and livelihoods can no longer be denied. Our country is among the most affected and most at risk to climate change. We’ve been enduring cycles of destruction and rehabilitation due to extreme weather events, as sea level rise slowly inundates our shores and will likely displace millions of Filipinos in coastal communities.

Typhoons that enter the country have become more intense and bring with them severe rainfall. We are still reeling from the impacts of Typhoon “Egay” (“Doksuri”) which as of last count had left 14 people dead, 52 injured and 20 others missing, and caused P4.3B worth of damages to infrastructure and P1.5B in agricultural losses in 45 provinces.

We know that with every additional level of global warming, there will be higher risks, more significant loss and damage, more resources needed to survive, and much more, to thrive. But beyond looking at the devastation and tragedies climate change has caused and will likely cause in the future; we must focus our attention on the tools and the power we can wield to overcome this crisis.

According to the World Bank Group’s Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR), climate change is exacting a heavy toll on Filipinos’ lives, properties, and livelihoods, and left unaddressed, could hamper the country’s ambition of becoming an upper middle-income country by 2040. It also noted that while the Philippines has many of the tools and instruments required to reduce damages substantially, policy actions and investments are needed to reduce negative climate impacts by two-thirds.

Thus, we have been investing in climate action, knowing that all sectors will benefit from enabling government policies and platforms that promote sustainability and resilience. Since 2015, the government has institutionalized climate change expenditure tagging in the national budget. Over the years, we have seen significant increases in our budget allocation and spending for climate change projects and programs. This year we saw a 60% increase compared to last year, i.e., from PHP 289.73 billion in 2022 to PHP 464.50 billion in 2023, of which PHP 338.21B relates to adaptation, including disaster risk reduction.

We are doubling our efforts to mobilize more financing through private sector partnerships, finding strong guidance from the findings of the World Bank that boosting our resilience programs will create net benefits throughout the economy, by prioritizing locally led adaptation solutions that can be scaled up or implemented more efficiently.

As we reflect on the challenges brought by the changing climate and the increasing frequency of disasters, we must also acknowledge the remarkable progress we have made in enhancing our disaster preparedness and response mechanisms. We pushed for end-to-end multi-hazard early warning systems and impact-based forecasting to design new forms of social protection, set engineering standards, and pursue local risk financing.

In the Senate, we are working double time to pass legislation supporting disaster risk reduction and nature-based solutions as part of our resilience-building measures and strategies.

Among the bills that this representation has authored, allow me to highlight some of the most crucial:

– The Philippine Disaster and Emergency Management Act, seeks to create a primary government agency accountable and responsible for overseeing, coordinating, and implementing a comprehensive disaster risk reduction and emergency response management system in the country and shall provide leadership in the continuous development of strategic and systematic approaches to disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness and emergency response, recovery, and rehabilitation.

– The Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (PENCAS) Act, introduces an innovative approach that allows us to account for the value of our natural resources and ecosystems by integrating their worth into our national accounts. By doing so, we can make more informed decisions that balance economic growth with environmental protection, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our ecosystems.

– The Blue Economy Act, which seeks to promote stewardship and sustainable
development of coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

These and many more will hopefully add to our existing body of policies to help set us on the path toward national climate-resilient development.

The road to resilience is indeed a collective journey—one that requires the participation of every sector, every individual, and every community across our archipelago.

Today, we come together as representatives of government agencies whether national or local, as civil society, private sector, academia, and as citizens—to tackle the interconnected challenges that confront us.

To my fellow public servants, lawmakers, and advocates, it is our moral obligation to ensure that climate and disaster resilience are not merely buzzwords but concrete and actionable initiatives. We must allocate resources, strengthen policies, and implement programs that empower our communities, particularly the most vulnerable, to become active agents of change in building resilience.

Furthermore, let us harness the power of technology, innovation, and science in enhancing our early warning systems, disaster response capabilities, and climate monitoring tools. Let us promote knowledge-sharing, learning, and capacity-building at all levels to ensure that all Filipinos are equipped with the skills to protect themselves and their families in times of crisis.

Moreover, let us never forget that climate resilience is deeply intertwined with sustainable development. We must strive for a balanced and holistic approach—one that considers social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity.

Together, we must build a legacy of resilience—a legacy that future generations will be proud to inherit.

Thank you, and let us move forward with renewed determination, compassion, and unity.

Isang luntiang Pilipinas sa ating lahat!