Keynote Speech: Launch of Resilient Cities / Municipalities and the Resiliency Leadership Program For Local Chief Executives

October 13, 2017

Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Launch of Resilient Cities/Municipalities and the
Resiliency Leadership Program For Local Chief Executives
13 October 2017 | SM Aura, Taguig City



In the face of crisis and disasters, we see the Filipino bayanihan spirit very much alive. The 1976 Mindanao earthquake and the 1990 Luzon earthquake, the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991, the landslide in Barangay Guinsaugon, Leyte in 2006, Typhoons Sendong in 2011, Bopha in 2012, and Yolanda in 2013, just to name a few, brought massive destruction and death, and yet, it is during these times of crisis that we see people establishing deep social connections to alleviate the plight of victims.


Why do such moments of selflessness become massively evident only in times of disasters?


We need to examine ourselves if, indeed, the best way to bring out the best in ourselves is by trying to help others survive after each disaster; or would it not be more practical and reasonable to approach today’s risks with concrete measures that diminish our vulnerabilities?


American author Arnold Glasow once said, “One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”


Today, we celebrate the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) with focus on the Sendai Framework, particularly on the second of the seven targets: to substantially reduce the number of affected people globally.


The only way to reach this target, and the six other goals of the Sendai Framework, is to manage the risks so that when natural hazards strike, these would not turn into disasters.


Global disaster statistics for 2015[1] show that 346 disasters triggered by natural hazards occurred in the year. These disasters killed 22,773 people, affected 98.6 million people, and caused US$ 66.5 billion worth of economic damages.


There were 15 reported natural hazards in the Philippines that year, and while it is not among the top 10 countries by the number of deaths, it is sixth in terms of number of affected people at 3.8 million citizens.


Disasters as an enemy are becoming more enigmatic and formidable. These disasters have made the government realize that it is no longer “business as usual.” The shift from reactive to proactive stance in dealing with natural hazards is a must.


Our action should enable us to revisit and rethink our current frameworks and strategies for socio-economic development. For through the centuries, our development approaches and practices have allowed disaster vulnerabilities to grow, to spread and to pervade until today.


Poverty, environmental degradation, rapid urbanization, and climate change, have all conspired to create enormous risks in our communities. They have constantly challenged our human capacity to cope. This must cease.


Resilience is said to be one of the remarkable strengths of our citizens, but what is our understanding of “resilience”? Is it limited to our ability to cope amid a devastating tragedy? Is it relevant only to the way we rebuild our communities after each disaster?


The task before national and local leaders is straightforward:  We have to make our communities safer, more resilient, and even more ready. The task of “building better” starts not after each disaster, but long before calamities strike.


Sea level rise threatens to submerge our coastal towns. At risk are 64 coastal provinces, 822 coastal municipalities, 25 major coastal cities and approximately 13.6 million Filipinos that need to be relocated away from danger zones.


This is an immediate concern that we must address. Are these communities aware of the threats of sea level rise and their exposure to tsunami and storm surge? Do they have natural buffers and disaster risk reduction measures in place?


In 2004, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), through the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), revealed that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila may destroy 40% of residential buildings, cause 34,000 deaths, injure 114,000 individuals, and the ensuing fires may also result in 18,000 additional fatalities.


Have we done the necessary interventions to avert such scenario?


The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) already warned that the West Valley Fault is ripe for movement. We just cannot predict when it will happen.


Meanwhile, communities in flood-prone and landslide-prone areas, near volcanoes and other active fault lines, must also be aware of the risks. Local government units (LGUs) have the duty to create disaster risk reduction and management plans based on these vulnerabilities.


As national and local government leaders, we have the moral responsibility to usher and achieve genuine development for the country and our communities.


As a three-term senator, I have authored laws to build resilience, such as the Climate Change Law of 2009, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, and the People’s Survival Fund Law of 2012, among others.


In my capacity as the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, we mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation in the national budget, and ensure that the implementation of programs, projects and activities would contribute towards preventing the creation of new disaster risks, reducing existing disaster risks, building the resilience of local communities and the nation as a whole.


But these policies are mere ink on paper unless we turn them into actual programs and actions that will effectively reduce disaster risks.


Closest to the people, local government leaders have the privilege to translate national policies, plans and programs into concrete and visible actions for the people.


Committing to make cities and municipalities disaster-resilient means increasing our investments in disaster risk reduction; conducting and sharing risk assessments; establishing multi-hazard early warning system and services, which should communicate to the general public risk and impact forecast of natural hazards; protecting our ecosystems; mangrove reforestation; building roadside ditches and seawalls; putting up rainwater harvesters, seedbanks, and rooftop gardens; using indigenous knowledge on disaster resilience; and undertaking regular drills for disaster preparedness.


We must link disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to national and local development planning.


We must build homes, schools, and hospitals that are safe and secure amidst natural hazards.


We must design and construct roads, bridges and other infrastructure that helps spur economic growth with disaster risk reduction in mind.


Disaster risk reduction essentially means genuine development—development that is sustainable and economic growth that is resilient.


I also wish to remind that, as mandated by the Climate Change Act, all LGUs must formulate their own Local Climate Change Action Plan or LCCAP. This aids our LGUs to effectively prepare and respond to the effects of climate change in their respective communities. It is the intention of our LCCAPs to incorporate risk assessment and understanding into local development planning processes and systems.


In closing, I congratulate the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, Manila Observatory, Zuellig Family Foundation, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation and SM Arise Philippines, for organizing the Resilience Conferences and for initiating convergence with government agencies and private institutions to build our country’s resilience.


Congratulations also to the National Resilience Council and I hope that through the Resilient Cities and Municipalities and the Resiliency Leadership Program for Local Chief Executives, we can engage more LGUs to be active participants in achieving the targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.


The world recognizes the resilience of the Filipino spirit, but let us not limit it to bearing a positive outlook amid tragedies. Resilience should mean that our homes and communities remain standing amid natural hazards and that the Filipino is resilient in mind, spirit and body.


Thank you and good morning.


[1] Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) 2015