The Role of PPP in DRR and in Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities: Lessons Learned and Way Forward

November 10, 2014


The Role of PPP in DRR and in Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities: Lessons Learned and Way Forward

Top Leaders Forum 2014

10 November 2014 – SMX Convention Center


There is a long history of cooperation and selflessness in the face of crisis and disasters.  Haiyan, Ketsana, Parma, just to name a few, brought massive destruction and death, and yet, it is during these times of crisis that we see people establishing deep social connections to alleviate the plight of victims.


Why, we should ask, do such moments of selflessness become massively evident only in times of disasters?


Author Rebecca Solnit of the book A Paradise Built in Hellsuccinctly captured this observation by highlighting the remarks of an interviewee who said, “The great majority of people are calm, resourceful, altruistic or even beyond altruistic, as they risk themselves for others. We improvise the conditions of survival beautifully.”


We need to examine ourselves if, indeed, the best way to bring out the best in ourselves is by trying to help others survive after each disaster; or would it not be more practical and reasonable to approach today’s risks with concrete measures that diminish our vulnerabilities?


The Asian Development Bank reports that half of the world’s megacities with populations of over 10 million are in Asia.  ADB further reports that, “while their economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty, these cities are still home to more than two-thirds of the world’s poor, many living in grim city slums and most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the onset of increasingly severe natural disasters.”


Global disaster statistics for 2013[1] show that 330 disasters triggered by natural hazards occurred in the year. These disasters killed 21,610 people, affected 96.5 million people, and caused US$ 118.6 billion worth of economic damages. Considering the global scenario, these figures are significantly lower than the annual average statistics from 2003-2012. But when we look at regional and country experiences, the story becomes remarkably different.


China, the United States, Indonesia, the Philippines and India are the top 5 countries most frequently hit by natural hazards. In 2013, two disasters killed more than 1,000 people—typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda in the Philippines killed 7,354 people and the monsoonal floods in June in India caused 6,054 deaths.


Haiyan affected 16.1 million people in the Philippines, while typhoon Phailin had 13.2 million victims in India, and typhoon Utor affected 8 million people in China.


Haiyan, which resulted to US$ 10 billion in damages, was also one of the top two most damaging disasters in 2013, along with the flood in East and South Germany that caused US$ 12.9 billion worth of economic damages.


Haiyan, like other disasters in previous years including typhoons Ketsana (Ondoy), Parma (Pepeng) and Bopha (Pablo), has placed the Philippines at the top of disaster statistics.


Disasters as an enemy are becoming more enigmatic and formidable. These disasters have made the government realize that it is no longer “business as usual.” The shift from reactive to proactive stance in dealing with natural hazards is a must.


This brings me back to my earlier question.  Should we not build in ways that lessen our vulnerabilities?


Pricewaterhouse Coopers reported that infrastructure deficit across Asia Pacific is substantial. It cited that between US$800 billion and US$ 1.3 trillion annually is necessary for infrastructure projects from now until 2020.


The Philippines, which is ramping up its spending on infrastructure, estimates its funding requirement at US$46.69 billion for 2013-2016.[2]  For 2015 and 2016, infrastructure allocations are estimated at 4% and 5% of the country’s GDP, respectively.


These developments beg the question, “What kind of infrastructure are we building?”


Resilience is said to be one of the remarkable strengths of our citizens, but what is our understanding of “resilience?” Is it relevant only to the way we rebuild our communities after each disaster?


The task of “building better” starts not after each disaster, but long before calamities strike.  Investing in and building the right infrastructure at the right place is a first step to developing safer, resilient, and sustainable communities.


The task of ensuring a safer tomorrow begins with the integration of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) in national development planning, budgeting and financial management.


The government need not be alone in building more resilient infrastructures and communities; after all, reducing risks and building up resilience entail the participation of community members and institutions alike.


Following Haiyan, the Philippine government has clearly seen the importance of embracing the concept of building back better. Building better, however, will only be meaningful if the standards we use comply with resilience benchmarks. Building better, but still below the standards, is building less. The private sector has a crucial role here.


In September of this year, Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of NEDA, announced that “increased public spending will be supplemented by private sector investments through PPP.”  Php553 billion worth of infrastructure projects are expected to be rolled out in the next 12 months.  The Aquino administration has awarded eight PPP infrastructure projects worth Php127.5 billion since four years ago.  Such partnership, in the light of the concept of “building better” and in the face of our society’s deep need for effective disaster risk governance, is indispensable.


Though historically PPPs have been favored for basic services and infrastructure, this partnership paradigm could very well help fuel the country’s Disaster Risk Reduction thrusts.


DRR is a relatively new area for public-private partnerships, as traditionally, private sector involvement in disaster management has focused largely on response and relief. But businesses have the potential to bring in core competencies for shaping innovative and sustainable solutions and therefore play a vital role in building resilience.[3]


To build resilience means to invest in DRR and CCA. We need better investments in flood control, forest management, hazard identification, mapping and assessment, research and development, preparedness, and risk financing.


In doing so, the government would greatly need support from the business sector. Investments can come in various forms such as financial, technical assistance, research and development support.


In Vietnam, part of the government’s National Strategy for Natural Disaster Prevention, Response and Mitigation is the business community’s involvement in various activities of disaster preparedness and response. Local companies and provincial governments are working together to improve disaster information dissemination, create public awareness on disasters, and carry out training and capacity building activities.[4]


In South Korea, the Disaster Mitigation and Countermeasures Task Force was formed in 2006 and engaged the private sector in the area of disaster causes analysis and survey. Local government officials and experts from the private sector held conferences and developed recommendations to the government to improve disaster management laws and regulations.[5]


In the Philippines, we have been engaging the private sector in our DRR and CCA initiatives.


The government’s Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards or Project NOAH was created with the support of several private business entities, particularly information communications technology and telecommunications companies.


Project NOAH is a program that uses science and technology in building capacities for disaster risk reduction and management.


This year, the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act was enacted into law, through which the services of telecommunications companies may be tapped by government in sending out disaster alerts and other relevant information to mobile phone subscribers located near and within areas that would be affected by an impending natural hazard.


The private sector is a key partner in DRR.  They supply the wherewithal, including the technical expertise, to ensure that development is pursued strategically at the outset.


It is vital, however, that predictability is made a key feature of our business environment lest the partnerships to promote DRR also turn into disaster itself.


It is also vital that the private sector should put disaster resilience at the core of their business strategies. The heightened engagement of the business sector in DRR is crucial in preventing substantial business losses and economic development setbacks resulting from disasters of unprecedented scale.


The business sector is a vital partner of the government in ensuring effective disaster risk governance. No community can exist on a sustainable basis by the sheer efforts of government alone.


The 2015 UNISDR Global Assessment Report on DRR is coming out in March, and it will likely indicate that development is becoming more and more elusive with the severity of the risk dilemma. Recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expound on the grim scenario for the future.  Humanity may very well be heading straight towards the brink.


I therefore call for a ‘cultural revolution’, for humanity to adapt to a fast changing environment and to adopt a risk-informed lifestyle. We must now live life on the planet mindful of the need to reducing risk to life, livelihood and property. This should apply in all aspects of our daily life — in designing a product, in engineering a structure, and in planning development programs or projects.


This cultural transformation for a safer world entails a new way of thinking and doing our everyday business that prevents socio-economic losses and ensures genuine human development.


Thank you and good morning.

[1] Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2013: The numbers and trends. Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), 2014.

[3] The Development of a Public Partnership Framework and Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia. UNISDR, 2009.

[4] Private Sector Engagement in Disaster Risk Reduction. Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, Bangkok.

[5] The Development of a Public Partnership Framework and Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia. UNISDR, 2009.