Speech: Ensuring Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as a Priority in Policy Making and Development Planning

October 14, 2016

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
“Ensuring Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as a Priority in Policy Making and Development Planning”

PH Haiyan Advocacy Cooperative: Regional Cooperative Conference on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
14 October 2016 | Leyte Academic Center, Palo, Leyte


Every year on October 13th we commemorate the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR). This year’s celebration focused on reducing global disaster mortality, the first of the seven targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.


In my privilege speech in the Senate the other day, I shared the story of Yolanda survivor Nenita Consolacion who was featured in a documentary painfully narrating how she saw her two children in the rubble, lifeless, but still holding each other’s hands until the end. [1]


I am certain many of you here have your own stories of loss and survival from Typhoon Yolanda. It is already harrowing to see the statistics—6,300 lives lost.


Almost three years after Yolanda, we are way past the finger wagging. Certainly, it would have created a big difference if communities were prepared and knew a storm surge and how they could have escaped its wrath. But this is no longer the time for regret; now is the time for action; now is the time to turn lessons and painful experiences into positive actions for change.


PH as Poster Child for Climate Impacts


Following Yolanda, we have become not only the recipient of generous donations from other nations but also the poster child for climate change impacts.


The 2014 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management took off from the Philippines’ Yolanda experience. ASEM delegates adopted the Post-Haiyan Tacloban Declaration, which affirmed the importance of the central role of governments in enhancing risk governance, transparency, responsibilities and accountabilities of all stakeholders.


French President Francois Hollande went to the Yolanda-affected town of Guiuan, Eastern Samar during his state visit to discuss climate cooperation.


Early this year, Former US Vice President Al Gore visited Tacloban where he saw for himself the magnitude of the devastation and heard the stories from the survivors themselves. He shares the Philippines’ Yolanda experience in his climate leadership trainings and uses it as a concrete example of the impact of climate change to highly vulnerable communities.


Moreover, our experience from Yolanda was one of the rallying points for a more ambitious climate deal during the Paris climate talks last year. The Philippines, as Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum then, was among the most influential in the crafting of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which seeks to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and possibly not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.


That is why it is ironic that, with the imminent entry into force of the Agreement following the ratification of more than 55 countries representing more than 55% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we are taking our time.


Vulnerable small island states such as Fiji, Marshall Islands, Palau and Maldives, and even the largest emitters of GHG—US, China, India, and the European Union—have all ratified the Paris Agreement.


I am committed to ensure the immediate concurrence by the Senate to the ratification of the Agreement once the Executive transmits it to our chamber.


We need to ratify the Paris Agreement so that we can access the Green Climate Fund, which will help us finance our climate adaptation programs, and receive other technical and financial support from developed countries.


But while we await such opportunity, 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 and the Sustainable Development Goals.


Legislative Interventions


The Philippines has numerous laws and policies focused on addressing issues on environment, climate change and disaster resilience. Among these are the Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, Marine Pollution Control Law, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Renewable Energy Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Climate Change Act, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act, the Act Creating the People’s Survival Fund, among others.


The Climate Change Act and DRRM Act are even considered as model legislation by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and many lawmaking bodies in the world.


In the present Congress, I have filed a Resolution calling for an inquiry in aid of legislation on the alleged detrimental health impacts and human rights infringements arising from the operation of coal-fired power plants in the country.


I have also urged the Senate to lead the conduct of an environmental audit of relevant national agencies and local government units in relation to their compliance to and enforcement of environmental laws. Our goal is to introduce measurable targets, identify where implementation can be supported, and encourage public accountability of all officials.


Moreover, in my capacity as the Chair 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 national budget, 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.


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.


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


These 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.


Convergence and Whole-of-Society Approach


Effective enforcement emanates from everyone’s understanding and appreciation of responsibility and accountability.


It is thus important to put communities at the heart of relevant programs and policies and gather collective action that is rooted in a sense of solidarity.


We should pursue synergy of government action in strengthening the understanding of climate and disaster risk, especially at the local level.


Through convergence, sharing of knowhow, and developing competencies at the local level, we can ensure a holistic, science-and-risk-based planning, especially for the development of local climate change action plans, local disaster risk reduction and management plans, and comprehensive land use plans.


We need to strengthen our adaptation actions at national and local levels. This includes 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.


Important sectors for adaptation and disaster risk reduction include agriculture and for security, water sector, health sector, awareness raising and education, environmental management, early warning systems, and development planning and practices.


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


Farmers and fisherfolk need to have a strong voice in adaptation processes, so they can articulate their concerns and priorities as grounded in their daily lives.


The cooperative sector is likewise encouraged to take a more active role in building community resilience to disasters.


One of the 7 principles of cooperatives–the concern for community–is geared towards the achievement of sustainable development. I urge all cooperatives to take up this important task of addressing a global phenomenon through concerted action at the local level. We must forge a network of cooperation to raise awareness and promote solutions to climate change.




On November 8, we will mark the third year following the onslaught of the strongest storm ever to make landfall in recorded history. We should never bury the lessons we have learned from Yolanda. We should draw them out of our collective but fleeting memory if only to pay homage to the survivors and the victims.


Each of us has opportunities to make a difference for our future. We must take hold of the opportunity to responsibly manage our environment and lead the way towards making our nation and our planet resilient and sustainable for us and for future generations.


Thank you.***

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