Legarda: Increase Preparedness, Reduce Disasters

October 27, 2013

Senator Loren Legarda today reiterated the need to shift from reactive efforts to proactive strategies in strengthening the country’s defenses against disasters and climate change.


Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Climate Change and on Environment and Natural Resources, reiterated her call for greater focus on disaster prevention following an article by Joe America titled, “The Philippines: The Most Dangerous Land on the Planet”, which was posted on news websites.


“Calamities will happen whether we like it or not, but we can certainly reduce its impacts if we are better prepared. Preparation, not reaction, is the name of the game,” Legarda said.


“The climate change impacts alone have resulted in disasters of unprecedented proportions, causing multiple losses—economic, social, political and even cultural. For the year 2012 alone, the Philippines recorded the highest number of disaster-related deaths in the world with 2,360 deaths; while disaster losses have increased about 18-fold since the 1970s,” the Senator added.


The Senator acknowledged that while the distribution of goods and rehabilitation efforts are vital elements of calamity relief efforts, one cannot diminish the fact that preventing the loss of lives and properties is far more important and strategic.


“We can no longer dismiss the interconnection among the issues of climate change, disasters and poverty. We cannot just build houses for the poor.  We need to make sure they are built in areas that will keep our people away from harm. We cannot just build bridges and roads. We need to build strong and resilient infrastructure in the right place and for the right reasons,” the Senator said.


Illustrating her point further, the Senator said, “We cannot just coat a leaking pipe with a sealant when what is actually needed is a new and more durable rust-proof pipe that could withstand the next surge of water.”


The Senator stressed that both the national government and local government units (LGUs) must think long-term and do more for improved urban planning and disaster reduction. “For one, let us look at the enforcement of building standards.  Disaster resilience requires good building standards and effective enforcement.  A land use policy needs to be adopted to improve resiliency of infrastructure and communities. This Congress needs to prioritize these measures,” the Senator said.


She explained that the quality of scientific data available to government agencies and LGUs for predicting and forecasting disasters also requires urgent improvement.


Furthermore, local governments must confront the worsening floods. To do this, LGUs must update their data on flood hazards and vulnerabilities, develop their information base on flood losses, invest in flood protection and mitigation, identify safe land for families to live in and implement the solid waste management law at full speed.


Legarda also called on the conduct of a nationwide structural evaluation of all schools and hospitals and the retrofitting of these structures to allow them to withstand strong temblors. Funding, for these retrofitting efforts, will need to be provided.


“A JICA 2004 study suggested that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila will claim more than 50,000 lives. What have our agencies, who had access to that information nearly 10 years ago, done to pro-actively address the grim scenario pictured by that study, “ Legarda asked.


She said that Congress needs to direct full support and funding for disaster reduction and resilience efforts.


“We have seen enough tragedies. Nobody can say we have not been warned.  It is time disaster reduction and resilience efforts are given a fair share of the national budget and serious attention by our government,” Legarda concluded.