Speech: 6th Top Leaders Forum “Business for Resilience: Towards a Resilient Philippines”

November 29, 2017

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
6th Top Leaders Forum
“Business for Resilience:
Towards a Resilient Philippines”
November 29, 2017 | Conrad Hotel, Manila


Allow me first to congratulate ARISE Philippines, SM Prime, and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) for organizing the 6th Top Leaders Forum today.

Our theme for this year’s forum—“Business for Resilience: Towards a Resilient Philippines”—is a fitting theme to signify our commitment for a Philippine green economy that embodies a low carbon and climate-resilient development pathway.

We all can attest to the sad reality that disasters turbocharged by climate change have claimed too many lives, disrupted our supply chains, disturbed our economic development, and impaired the quality of life. Disasters will continue to devastate our communities unless we address the risks and build resilience.

Last year alone, disasters displaced 22 million people all over the world. According to the World Bank, 26 million people are thrown into poverty every year because of disasters, which cost the global economy US$ 520 billion annually.

In the coming years, the scenario could be worse.

The United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 points to growing global inequality, increasing hazard exposure, rapid urbanization, and the overconsumption of energy and natural capital as major factors that would “drive risk to dangerous and unpredictable levels.”

In order to address these challenges, we should not stick to ‘business as usual’ in the way we pursue development, especially since we have also committed to building the resilience of our communities and promoting sustainable and inclusive growth in accordance with the Sendai Framework, Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In the legislative aspect, we already have the laws in place. Laws and policies, however, are not enough to make our communities safe and keep us alive. We need fair and effective enforcement. We need to translate national policies, plans and programs into local action with measurable gains.

We recognize today the crucial role the private sector plays in light of the climate and disaster realities and challenges ahead of us. We have realized that building resilience is not solely the government’s responsibility anymore. It is now everyone’s business.

It is estimated that nearly 60% of the Philippine population will migrate to urban areas in the next 20 years. This would give rise to informal settlements and would lead to the surge of diseases in areas without proper waste disposal and water management, which would also affect our water supply and pose further risks to our people and the environment.

We would also experience extreme heat because of climate change. This would lead to loss of productivity and loss of lives as our workers’ health deteriorate with the risk of heat stroke and dehydration, in turn affecting the performance of businesses. This lends urgency to the need for sustainable urban planning and green designs for our buildings and workplaces.

Our forum today focuses on building resilience to address these new challenges. However, I would like to pose this question to all the executives and officials from the private and public sector: What have we already contributed and what else do we intend to do in enhancing our resilience and capacity to address climate change? How do we ensure that we sustain efforts towards being climate-smart and disaster-resilient?

Resilience is not measured by how fast we reconstruct and rebuild our infrastructure. It should also not be measured by the billions of pesos that we allocate for rehabilitation nor the dollars or euros that we acquire from foreign donations. This does not mean we discredit such efforts because these are important as well.

But resilience is measured by the effectiveness of our processes and systems in place in averting these disasters before they even strike. To be resilient is to protect our people and the environment upon which many Filipinos depend for their livelihood. To be resilient is to implement adaptation projects that will raise our capacity to address our climate and disaster risks and vulnerabilities. To be resilient is to shift from being climate-vulnerable to being climate-smart.

We formally launch today the National Resilience Council (NRC), which will serve as a platform to engage the science and technology and civil society communities to contribute to national and local legislation and policy development.

I congratulate yet again ARISE Philippines, led by UNISDR, and its partners, the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, Zuellig Family Foundation, Manila Observatory, Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, SM-ARISE Philippines, and government agencies, for this crucial undertaking.

I hope that the NRC could contribute to providing green solutions to prevailing issues and problems arising from climate change. I expect more academic research be undertaken on green practices, initiatives, or even green alternatives on everyday products that should be brought to our attention.

Today also provides a great opportunity to address the business leaders and government officials here today and share disaster resilience and climate adaptation practices that could foster greater and more ambitious action from all of us.

First, we need to be fully aware and to fully understand our prevailing climate and disaster risks that should inform policy and action.

We need science in strengthening building codes and making risk-sensitive land use plans that are linked into yearly investment plans of governments. Hazard maps can provide a good foundation for the work of our planners and builders. We need probabilistic maps and impact-based forecasts and risk-informed warnings through multi-hazard early warning systems.

We must ensure that these instruments are not only delivered to leaders and policy-makers but also understood. It is, thus, important for members of the academic community—our scientists, researchers, professors, and subject matter experts—to communicate the practical value of what they are doing and to contribute to serve current and future needs and interests of our communities. It is important for all of us to understand research information about real-life implications of how people and places are affected by natural hazards and climate change.

Second, we should scale up green financing to maximize green projects and resilience programs.

Our national budget is one that is climate-adaptive and disaster-resilient in that it funds, and also mandates agencies of government to implement programs, projects and activities that 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.

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.

The government has already started “greening” our industries in various sectors, but the private sector could further escalate this to new heights.

A strong partnership among the government, the private sector and financial institutions will be needed to put in place the right conditions to attract domestic and foreign low-carbon investments.

Our micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise 99.5% of the total establishments in the country and employ 61.6% of the total workforce, should be given the chance to venture into green businesses that private banks and financial institutions could help realize.

I am certain that each one of us here today can contribute to this transformation.

Third, we need to implement our environmental laws.

In 2008, we enacted a Renewable Energy Law that provides for the full development and use of RE in the country. More recently, under the Green Jobs Act, companies that create employment which contribute to preserving the quality of our environment can avail of tax incentives and duty-free importation of equipment. We also have laws that mandate the installation of solid waste management facilities and rainwater collectors in our local government units.

Our laws are hailed as among the best in the world, but without strict and effective implementation, we can never maximize their full potential.

The private sector is encouraged to implement these environmental laws as well through the practice of waste segregation; establishment of materials recovery facility, rainwater collection systems in buildings, food gardens and seed banks; and transition to renewable energy sources such as solar rooftops, among others.

And fourth, we need to foster convergence—to harness all our strengths and coordinate our action into a cohesive action plan for disaster risk reduction and management.

We have borne the brunt of the most deadly disasters, and we have learned from those experiences with the tragic loss of lives. We already have extensive science and data—how natural hazards have become more frequent and how they impact our communities. Our actions should match the level of our understanding.

Our efforts to address disasters and climate change should not be fragmented. We should stop addressing them in isolation. Our efforts to adapt and mitigate should be coordinated among all stakeholders, in harmony.

We all can contribute in winning this fight. We have proven so many times that the Filipino spirit is resilient. We have inspired other nations by becoming the voice of the vulnerable. And I know that we can do so much better.

As leaders in our respective fields, we can sustain this new path towards a cleaner and more sustainable economy. The work ahead of us may be daunting, but let us remain steadfast in our goals and our aspirations to provide for what our people and our country truly deserve.

Thank you.