Privilege Speech: International Day for Disaster Reduction 2016

October 12, 2016

Privilege Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
International Day for Disaster Reduction 2016
12 October 2016 | Senate Session Hall


Mr. President,


Tomorrow, October 13, we will commemorate the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR). I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege to highlight once again the need to build our communities’ resilience to disaster and climate risks.


When Nenita Consolacion saw her two children in the rubble, they were lifeless, but what struck her most was the sight of her beloved children still holding hands—until the end. [1]


In between sobs, she narrated how she lost her children when on that fateful day, 8 November 2013, the wind suddenly grew strong; water entered their house, at first ankle-deep, then quickly rising, and the next thing she knew, her two children were drowned by the rising floodwaters. [2]


Nenita lived to painfully tell her story. But more than 6,000 others are now just part of the statistics; they were not fortunate enough to survive Supertyphoon Yolanda, said to be the world’s strongest typhoon to make landfall.


Mr. President,


This year’s IDDR celebration carries the slogan, “Live to Tell” and focuses on reducing global disaster mortality, the first of the seven targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.


If only communities on the path of Yolanda were prepared; if only they were evacuated in safe areas ahead of time; if only the people knew what a storm surge is and how they could have escaped its wrath, more people could have survived and testified how disaster risk reduction and preparedness can save lives.


There are many more “if onlys” and “what ifs”, but finger-wagging will not give justice to the dead. We need to turn the lessons of Yolanda and other disasters into urgent action to build resilience.


All over the world, there are many other Nenitas from tragedies of even greater magnitude such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that claimed almost 230,000 lives, the 2008 Cyclone Nargis that struck Myanmar and caused 138,000 deaths, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed 223,000 individuals.


The Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) recorded 7,056 disasters worldwide during the period 1996 to 2015. Natural hazards in the past 20 years killed 1.35 million people, more than half died in earthquakes and the remaining due to weather- and climate-related hazards. [3]


In the Philippines, deaths caused by storms alone reached 15,880 during the period 2006-2015, significantly higher than the 3,970 storm deaths in the previous decade. [4]


The community of nations realized that they must come together and craft a global framework that will serve as guide towards addressing risks and building resilience to disasters.


In 2005, governments around the world adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) aimed at “substantially reducing disaster losses, in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries” by the year 2015.


Among the five priority actions of the HFA, making disaster risk reduction a policy priority and strengthening institutions has progressed the most. Here in our country, the passage of landmark legislation on disaster and climate risk management — the Climate Change Act of 2009, as amended by the People’s Survival Fund of 2012, and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 — has institutionalized and mainstreamed disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in development policies, plans and programs, as well as in public funding.


However, translating policies into action is a different issue altogether.


Even with the HFA, the past decade saw disasters continue to exact a heavy toll—a staggering 1.5 billion people in the world were affected in various ways, including more than 700,000 killed by disasters. The total economic loss was more than $1.3 trillion. [5]


Thus, in 2015, at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) led nations in crafting a new framework that focuses on a more targeted approach to effectively guide nations and communities in managing risks and preventing the creation of new risks.


The Sendai Framework for DRR outlines seven global targets to be achieved until 2030:

  • Substantially reduce global disaster mortality
  • Substantially reduce the number of affected people globally
  • Reduce direct economic loss in relation to global GDP
  • Substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services
  • Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies
  • Substantially enhance international cooperation to developing countries
  • Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk reduction information assessments


In the first year of the Sendai Framework, we are asked: What are we doing to implement the first target to reduce mortality?


The UNISDR cited as an example the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) Metro Manila Shake Drill, an annual earthquake drill launched in 2015 that aims to prepare citizens and communities in the event the “Big One” occurs.


According to the 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), 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.


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, we have been experiencing harsher storms and monsoon rains and stronger episodes of El Niño in the past years due to climate change.


In the face of imminent threats and the new normal, we cannot do business as usual.


We must invest in disaster risk reduction. It has been estimated that the economic impact of disaster will be reduced by $7 for every $1 spent for DRR.


Mr. President,


In my capacity as the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, we were able to transform the 2016 national budget into one that is climate-adaptive and disaster-resilient.


Under the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the implementation of programs, projects and activities should 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; towards achieving the goals under the Sendai Framework for DRR, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the country’s Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions.


We have mainstreamed provisions that ensure that the implementation of government programs would contribute towards building resilience, including on the maintenance and operation of dams, repair and retrofitting of public infrastructure, resilience of agricultural communities, and building of evacuation centers in every region in the country. We likewise reiterated the enforcement of our environmental laws to strengthen disaster resilience.


We will continue to do this in the 2017 national budget.


But how do we translate these policies into programs that will reduce disaster risks?


It is critical that we strengthen our adaptation actions at national and local levels. Examples of these are preparing risk assessment, protecting ecosystems, improving agricultural methods, managing water resources, building settlements in safe zones, developing early warning systems, instituting better building designs, improving insurance coverage, and developing social safety nets.


Engaging rural people in decision-making, especially to understand autonomous adaptation and the interplay of informal and formal institutions, plays an important role in strengthening public decision-making.


Reducing disaster risk is key to poverty eradication and sustainable development. We need to strengthen local risk governance, enhance the resilience of rural livelihood, preserve the integrity of ecosystems, and promote the resilience of culture and indigenous peoples.


The Sendai Framework for DRR urges us not to manage disasters but to manage the risks so that natural hazards would not turn into disasters.


There are many more Nenitas in the world who were given a second chance to live and tell a painful story that could hopefully touch hearts and enlighten minds about the urgent need to make disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation a priority of government.


I hope we could all heed the call for action. Let us all take a proactive role in making the Sendai Framework work for us. Let us prove that our nation remains steadfast in its commitment to building a more resilient and sustainable planet.


Thank you, Mr. President.***



[1] Senator Loren Legarda. “LOREN LEGARDA: Tacloban Venice Biennale Video”. Filmed [2014]. YouTube video, 12:50. Posted [October 2014].


[2] Ibid.

[3] UNISDR, CRED, Poverty & Death: Disaster Mortality 1996-2015, 5-6.

[4] Ibid., 17.

[5] Alexandra Galperin and Emily Wilkinson, Strengthening Disaster Risk Governance: UNDP Support during the HFA Implementation Period 2005-2015, ed. Sohaila Abdulali and Corey Sobel (New York, 2015), 1.