Turn Knowledge into Practice, Legarda Says at 5th Top Leaders Forum

November 8, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda highlighted the challenge of translating knowledge into practice to effectively manage, reduce and prevent disaster risks, during her speech today at the 5th Top Leaders Forum held at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and the Global Champion for Resilience of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), said, “We should not assume that science, research, and the tools they offer will just automatically find their way into the drawing boards of policy makers, planners, and those charged to lead action in building more resilient communities.”

“I have seen how action, often times, are guided by what is popular, by what is easiest to undertake, or by least cost considerations. This has to change. We need to accept the fact that the disaster risk landscape requires a more focused, evidence-based assessment of hazards, vulnerability and disaster risks—and this can only be done through science,” she added.

The Senator cited the country’s experience during Supertyphoon Yolanda, which happened exactly three years ago today.

An assessment of Tacloban, which greatly bore the brunt of the storm’s impact, showed that the city’s location is highly susceptible to disaster risks. The geo-hazard map for Tacloban showed a province massively covered by color purple on its outskirts and red within—meaning to say, the coastal areas were susceptible to flooding, while the inland was highly susceptible to landslides. The map’s color coding scheme represented susceptibility to landslides and flooding; but the people of Tacloban came to know of that only after the fact.

Days before Yolanda hit land, there were public warnings from the weather bureau and preemptive evacuation was carried out in the coastal areas. Emergency relief resources were also prepared and prepositioned. But, seeing the devastation caused by Yolanda, such preparations were not enough.

“We cannot submit ourselves to utter helplessness in the face of mounting disaster risks. We need to be in control, and the only way that can happen is to embrace the lessons learned from Yolanda and to move forward not just with the resolve, but also with the tools to do better. Government and businesses cannot just be enablers of research. They need to be users of the knowledge that science and technology creates,” said Legarda.

The Senator said that government and businesses need to reach out to scientists and academic institutions. In the same way, scientists and the research community will also need to communicate the practical value of what they are doing.

“I understand that the gold standard of a researcher’s output is the publication of peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals. The end should not be focused on publishing a paper; but making sure these contribute to creating knowledge that serves the needs and interests of communities today, and in the future,” she stressed.

“Our biggest challenges include those of getting all ‘hands on deck,’ providing the resources to make science work for building resilient communities and businesses, and translating knowledge into practice.”

Legarda said the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction says that managing the risks is key to resilience. “We acknowledge this and our resolve to build more resilient communities is more pronounced than ever. In all of these, science is our ally.”

“The changing environmental landscape poses various challenges that would likewise change the business landscape, but forward-thinking companies will see adaptation as an opportunity to innovate and contribute to improving the environment. We must not rebuild the risks. If we build strong and wise today, there will be no need to rebuild in the future,” Legarda concluded.

The 5th Top Leaders Forum was organized by the UNISDR, ARISE Philippines and SM Prime Holdings, Inc. With chief executive officers (CEOs), presidents and executives from the business sector in attendance, the Forum provides a unique platform where both private and public sector members explore trends and innovations to address challenges and opportunities for disaster risk.