Professional Women of the AmCham Forum Mandarin Oriental Hotel

July 27, 2012

Professional Women of the AmCham Forum
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
July 27, 2012

Dear guests, good afternoon.

I am honored to have been invited to talk about my legislative work today among some of the most accomplished women in the country.

For years, I have been endeavoring to make significant strides on the legislative front on various issues that are close to my heart. Allow me to outline these to you in the context the Millennium Development Goals, the collective commitment of nations for human development.

The MDGs represent human needs and basic rights that every individual around the world should be able to enjoy — freedom from extreme poverty and hunger; right to quality education, right to productive and decent employment, right to good health and shelter; the right of women to give birth without risking their lives; and a world where environmental sustainability is a priority and where women and men live in equality. To achieve these universal objectives, the MDGs require a wide-ranging global partnership for development.

With only three years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the MDGs, we ask ourselves, as leaders and decision-makers: How far have we gone as a nation in realizing the aspirations of the MDGs?

Creating Jobs and Livelihoods

To effectively reduce hunger and poverty, we have to provide our citizens the kind of support that will have long-term effects. I have been calling for a more vigorous promotion and implementation of laws on livelihood, such as those that I have authored back in 2008.

The Barangay Kabuhayan Act establishes livelihood and skills training centers in fourth, fifth and sixth class municipalities, while the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act strengthens MSMEs by requiring lending institutions to allocate at least eight percent (8%) of their total loan portfolio to micro and small businesses and appropriate agencies to provide access to new technologies and entrepreneurship training programs.

In an effort to accord opportunities to our indigenous cultural communities with rich weaving traditions yet poor economic resources, we pushed for the passage of the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law in 2004. It mandated the use of indigenous fibers for the official uniforms of government officials and employees, with the objective of strengthening the local fiber industry.
Beyond the halls of the Senate, I have committed myself to opening doors of opportunities for our indigenous peoples (IPs). We supported the creation of the first permanent textile galleries in the country, the Hibla ng Lahing Filipino, with the goal of promoting greater support for cultural enterprises and creative industries of our indigenous peoples.

Gender Equality and Women Empowerment

As one of the few women legislators in the Senate, I have placed special interest in protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of women, children and the youth. My legislative efforts resulted in the passage of the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act, the Anti-Discrimination Against Women Act, the Rape Victim Assistance and Protection Act, the Anti-Child Labor Law, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act and the Magna Carta of Women.

Let me share a few thought-provoking figures on the topic:
• The participation of women in Philippine politics and governance remains at a minimal level with only 18% of the elected posts in the 2010 Elections won by women candidates.
• Meanwhile, violence against women (VAW) continues to surge. Following a six-year downward trend from 2001 to 2006, the number of violence against women cases reported to the Philippine National Police rose again in 2007 with 5,729 cases. There were further increases in 2008 with 6,905 cases, and in 2009 with 9,485 cases.
• In the area of maternal health, there are 221 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births from 162 per 100,000 live births in 2006. This is a far cry from the MDG goal of reducing maternal deaths to 52 per 100,000 live births.
These issues we aim to address through the Magna Carta of Women. The law enumerates the rights of women that must be guaranteed by the State. These rights include, among others:
• The protection from all forms of violence and in times of disaster and other crisis situations
• The assurance of participation and representation of women in decision- and policy-making processes both in the public and private sector
• Equal access and non-discrimination in education, scholarships, training and in employment in whatever field
• Provision of comprehensive health services and health information and education
However, legislation is just one phase of the overall effort to achieve gender equality and women empowerment. This and other laws need to be strictly and faithfully implemented for their full benefits to be realized.

Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation

We must also consider that there is a strong correlation between the achievement of the MDGs and reducing disaster risk. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon himself stated that, “Reducing disaster risk and increasing resilience to natural hazards in different development sectors can have multiplier effects and accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”

Disaster risk reduction is not a cost, but an investment that pays back significantly. We have country experiences to prove this. China spent US$3.15 billion on flood control between 1960 and 2000, which is estimated to have averted losses of about US$12 billion. In 2007, Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh killed 3,400, in contrast to similar cyclones which killed 138,000 people in 1991 as many as 300,000 people in 1970. The huge decrease in casualties is attributed in most part to 42,000 volunteers (called megaphones on bicycles) who helped evacuate millions of residents before the cyclone struck land.
The impact of Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009 reminds our government leaders that disaster risk reduction is no longer an option and it cannot be delayed. This means that as we build new health centers and retrofit old dilapidated ones, we must ensure that these facilities can withstand natural hazards so they can keep functioning in times of disasters. This means that we protect the livelihoods of poor communities and support alternative income-generating activities to give them more disaster-resilient income. This means that we stamp out corruption in construction and make schools safer from disasters.

Through the Climate Change Act of 2009 and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, which I authored, proactive climate change and disaster preparedness measures were legislated. In the Philippine Senate, we have institutionalized a Committee on Climate Change, which I chair, to ensure the implementation of laws as well as the sustainability of initiatives for climate change adaptation.

We are also unrelenting in pushing for the full implementation of our major environmental laws: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, and the Renewable Energy Act.

As disaster risk reduction is everybody’s business, I urge heightened action from the business community. Private companies should be encouraged to come up with their business continuity plans that will showcase how prepared they are to face disasters and be back in business as soon as possible. This is already being undertaken in Japan that is why recovery has been fast and efficient. Floods in Thailand should likewise serve as a lesson. It has brought disasters as a global issue considering the disruption in the supply chain of the affected manufacturing companies. The business community in the Philippines must begin to think about this.

The higher value of corporate business is not found in the monetary profit it brings and neither in the wealth it creates, but in the nobility of purpose – to improve the quality of life of the people and to build a sustainable and resilient human society. What could be more rewarding than knowing that one’s business, however big or small, has made a difference in making a village community or the country as a whole, a safer and happier place to live in? Isn’t this the essence of corporate social responsibility?
Every time a disaster strikes in our communities, a critical opportunity is presented before us – the opportunity to learn from the painful lessons of the disaster, to build back better communities and to make the right choices for our people.

In closing, let me reiterate that the best choice we have is to make our nation disaster-resilient to free us, once and for all, from the exhausting and costly cycle of rebuilding our communities every single time nature unleashes its wrath.

The best choice for us is to chart the path towards the achievement of the MDGs – halving poverty, promoting gender equality and ensuring environmental sustainability. The road promises to be filled with stumbling blocks. But instead of slowing us down, these challenges should bring about consensus — an agreement that our country should double, even triple, its efforts to reach our targets. We have the power and the duty to lead the way.

Thank you and good day.