Speech: 9th Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum

September 22, 2015

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda*

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Philippines 2015

9th Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum

22 September 2015 | Iloilo City, Philippines


*(Delivered by Commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman, Climate Change Commission)


It is my distinct honor and pleasure to speak before senior disaster management officials of the Asia-Pacific economies.


Foremost, we express our solidarity with the nation of Chile and commiserate with those who lost their loved ones in the recent 8.3 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit the country. But we also admire this nation for heavily investing in resilient infrastructure, imposing stringent building codes, and continuously improving on their early warning systems—without these disaster risk reduction programs, the casualties could have been more and the damages greater.


I believe everyone in this hall is very much aware of the harsh reality each of our nations is faced with because of the new normal. We all know the great challenge we need to address and our goal is for our respective economies to effectively incorporate disaster risk reduction in our development agenda.


Through many decades, the complexity of the development problems in our world has been widely examined for insights into better approaches and solutions. Yet, the problems have persisted and the tasks for well-intentioned development leaders have become even more daunting as ever.


Our world is wrought with danger. Disasters abound and they are getting bigger and deadlier. We have seen many times the impact of weather extremes and the prevalence of disaster risk, exacerbated by climate change.


The past decade alone saw disasters continue to exact a heavy toll—a staggering 1.5 billion people were affected in various ways, including over 700,000 people killed and 23 million made homeless by disasters. The total economic loss was more than US$1.3 trillion.[1]


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.”[2]


Prior to the adoption of the Post-2015 DRR framework at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (3WCDRR) that was held in Sendai, Japan last March, the review of nations’ implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) showed that among the five priority actions of the HFA, making disaster risk reduction a policy priority and strengthening institutions has progressed the most.[3]  However, translating policies into action is a different issue altogether.


In its mid-term review of the HFA, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) declared, “less evident is improvement in the decentralization of responsibilities and financial resources for disaster risk reduction, as well as the systematic involvement of communities in the development of strategic plans for disaster risk reduction.”[4]


Here in the Philippines, we enacted the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act in 2010. This law provides for the development of action plans and the implementation of measures pertaining to all aspects of disaster risk reduction and management, including good governance, risk assessment and early warning, knowledge building and awareness raising, reducing underlying risk factors, and preparedness for effective response and early recovery.


The law created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to create a framework that will provide for a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, inter-agency and community-based approach to disaster risk reduction and management.


At the local government level, the local disaster risk reduction and management councils must ensure the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local development plans, programs and budgets as a strategy in sustainable development and poverty reduction.


Although the Philippine DRRM Law and its complementary law, the Climate Change Act, were commended as “an excellent legal framework for disaster risk reduction and an excellent legal framework for climate adaptation,”[5] we are faced with the greater challenge of actually making it work for our communities.


Failure to adapt to the new normal has far reaching consequences as we experienced when our country was ravaged by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The results were devastating — 6,000 lives lost, more than 10 million suffering people, communities destroyed, and billions of pesos worth of damages in properties and business.


Following Haiyan, the Philippine government has clearly seen the importance of embracing the concept of building back better and continues to improve on the gaps and challenges.


During the onslaught of Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, our government has demonstrated significant improvement in executing prevention, mitigation, preparedness and response measures, including the preemptive evacuation of almost 800,000 individuals to safer grounds, pre-positioning of goods in twinned provinces outside Hagupit’s track, enabling quick response to the needs.


The government has also improved the way they conduct risk assessment through the institutionalization of the Pre-Disaster Risk Assessment-Actions, Protocols and Programs (PDRA-APP), a tool and a process that addresses the possible risks and impacts of impending hazards in a manner that is hazard-specific, area-focused, and time-bound.


Moreover, what our government had previously referred to as Calamity Fund, which was intended for response, recovery and rehabilitation after disasters, has been renamed National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, starting with the 2014 National Budget, to be able to fund DRR activities.


These improvements we hope to further enhance and strengthen especially with the adoption of the successor to the HFA, the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030, which focuses on a more targeted approach to effectively guide nations and communities in managing risks and preventing the creation of new risks.


The general framework and policy for DRR should emanate from the highest leadership in order for our economies to tread on a similar path towards resilience.


However, good policies are ineffective if we do not bring them to the local level. Local governments and communities must embrace these policies and translate them into action. This means that land use plans should be risk-sensitive; cities and human settlements must be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; multi-hazard early warning systems should be in place and strengthened; and the public must know the risk from hazards and the appropriate action to take to prevent the loss of lives and livelihoods.


In light of the call to build back better, the government would also need support from the business sector. Building better will only be meaningful if the standards we use comply with resilience benchmarks. There should be better investments in flood control, forest management, hazard identification, mapping and assessment, research and development, and risk financing. The private sector has the potential to bring in core competencies for shaping innovative and sustainable solutions and therefore plays a vital role in building resilience.


We must likewise tap the unique contribution to DRR of different groups in our society—women, children, the elderly, people living with disabilities, and indigenous peoples—as we address their specific vulnerabilities.


Moreover, inter-economy cooperation in dealing with disasters must be strengthened. Disasters know no boundaries or borders. As we make our respective economies resilient and sustainable, the whole region will benefit if we can support each other through strengthened collaborative research, technology transfer, capacity building and knowledge sharing.


While APEC has brought a number of benefits in terms of trade, investments, and promoting ease of doing business in the region, we have to ask ourselves if we have done enough to ensure that our economies are addressing the effects of climate change. If you are not prepared to address these, then there is no trade to speak of.


I hope that we can come up with an APEC framework for disaster risk reduction.


If there are free trade agreements, trade facilitation agreements, why cannot there be more agreements on disaster resilience? Let this be the challenge that I bring upon you today.


The people in this room have the power to influence our leaders to head towards a brighter future, a safer earth. Let us all become champions of change for the future that we want.  Let us all become victors instead of victims in this only living planet that we call home.


This year marks a critical juncture for the global community as we take action on the inter-related issues of disaster resilience, sustainable development and climate change mitigation. The path that we will take today will determine the fate of the next generations, starting with our very own children. Let us not fail them.***



[1] Strengthening Disaster Risk Governance: UNDP Support during the HFA Implementation Period 2005 – 2015

[2] Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015

Making development sustainable: The future of disaster risk management

[3] Reducing Vulnerability and Exposure to Disasters: The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2012

[4]  Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. Mid-term Review 2010-2011, UNISDR

[5]  Margareta Wahlstrom’s statement during a press conference on May 4, 2012 in the Philippines