Women’s International Network on Disaster Risk Reduction-Philippines Launch

April 26, 2023

Women International Network for Disaster Risk Reduction (WIN DRR) Philippines Chapter
April 26, 2023 |2:50 – 3:00 PM |
Director’s Club Cinema 2, Mall of Asia

I am delighted to be part of the launching of the Women International Network for Disaster Risk Reduction (WIN DRR) – Philippines Chapter and to be chosen as one of its founding members. My sincere appreciation to Asia Pacific College President Teresita P. Medado, WIN DRR Convenor, Vice President for Corporate Compliance Group of SM Supermalls Liza Silerio, and members of the organizing committee, for recognizing the strategic significance of uniting women in the field of disaster risk reduction.

With our immeasurable roles, women have been trained to adapt to changing circumstances and persevere through challenges. As selfless caretakers being mothers, daughters, and wives, or as educators, economists, health workers, peacekeepers, and dependable leaders of the community, we have been fostering and cementing a culture of preparedness in various settings.

The WINDRR is a powerful platform where we can do more and deliver greater impact. Empowering women to make families, homes, and community livelihoods disaster-resilient means freeing them from vulnerability and inequality. Thus, the WINDRR network can properly address gender issues in the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction and management programs, and ensure that the contribution of women in disaster resilience will be valued.

In our country, climate and disaster risks and hazards abound. The Philippines, being an archipelagic nation located in the western edge of the Pacific Ocean and directly within the Ring of Fire, faces the constant risk of typhoons, drought, as well as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. We are ranked fourth in the Global Climate Risk Index of 2021, the list of countries most affected by weather-related disasters like storms, floods, and heatwaves from 2000-2019. The index notes of the Philippines’ particular vulnerability of “being recurrently affected by catastrophes,” which entails significant loss and damage and makes response and rehabilitation far more logistically and financially demanding. The World Risk Index 2022 meanwhile ranked the Philippines as the world’s most at risk country among 193 countries worldwide.

Climate change affects all of us, but how men and women are affected is different. It is not gender-neutral. Women are found to be more affected by climate impacts than men because of cultural and societal roles and prevailing gender inequalities.

As climate change is a “threat multiplier,” it increases socio-economic and political tensions in fragile and conflict-ridden areas. And within these areas, women and girls face increasing vulnerabilities to gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, human trafficking, and child marriage, among others. Climate change and disasters also endanger women’s and girls’ health by further limiting access to adequate healthcare and services. These underscore why our policies must integrate the aspect of gender in terms of planning, financing, and implementation.

Our Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 recognizes the need for the Philippines to be more resilient to the impacts of natural hazards and climate change, embedding the aspect of gender in the different strategies. It has a dedicated section to “Accelerate Climate Action and Strengthen Disaster Resilience,” which presents outcomes to be pursued to address challenges faced in climate action and strengthening disaster resilience. These outcomes are: (a) climate and disaster risk resilience of communities and institutions increased, (b) ecosystem resilience enhanced, and (c) low carbon economy transition enabled.

In Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act, which I authored and became law in 2009, there is a provision that at least one of the commissioners in the CCC must be female. This is to ensure that the gender lens and gender-responsive approaches are mainstreamed in our policies and programs on climate change.

In my earlier years as a Senator, I also initiated a nationwide information and education campaign to promote disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. This involved conducting regional workshops for local governments and implementing the Luntiang Pilipinas greening program which has successfully planted millions of trees in different parts of our country.

As part of the campaign, I also produced documentaries for Filipinos of all ages and across sectors to spur climate and environmental action. These include “Ulan sa Tag-Araw: Isang Dokyu-drama Ukol sa Pagbabago ng Klima” (Rains in the Summer: A Documentary Drama on Climate Change), an animated children’s movie called “Ligtas Likas”, “Buhos” (Downpour), an instructional video on disaster preparedness titled “Ligtas” (Safe), “Now is the Time”, “Philippine Marine Biodiversity”, and “Antique: Coral Restoration Project”. I was appointed by the United Nations as Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia and the Pacific, and more recently as Global Champion for related programs.

In 2012, I was conferred Hero of Resilience by the United Nations on the International Day for Disaster Reduction. The UN recognized Republic Act (R.A.) 9729, or the Climate Change Act which I principally authored and sponsored, and R.A. 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law which I co-sponsored as among the exemplary laws in the world. Additionally, I principally sponsored and authored R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and also co-authored R.A. 8749, or the Clean Air Act which are also landmark measures on the environment.

These enabling policies are already in place, but the truth is that we need not be in government to be movers for resilience. Whom can we tap to lead the planting of more mangroves and create seedbanks for our indigenous trees? Who among us can champion urban farming? We need crisis and disaster risk women leaders to save more lives.

As a lifelong student and advocate for valuing heritage and culture, I would also like to emphasize the integral role that our indigenous women have played throughout history as keepers of traditional knowledge, systems, and practices that are now generally acknowledged as indispensable when one talks of natural resource management and disaster management.

The books can say a lot more about women than being just more vulnerable to climate change and disasters than men. We women leaders from grassroots groups to global organizations can step up to drive meaningful action.

Women should be provided the needed support to have the confidence and wherewithal to lead and be at the forefront of efforts to improve Filipino communities and pursue initiatives that will contribute decisive actions towards the nation’s sustainable and equitable progress.

A transformative cultural shift is what we urgently need to safeguard our planet from disasters. It is time to be bold, take responsibility, and create a more climate-resilient world, which requires taking decisive action and making significant changes to the way we live and interact with the environment.

As women leaders, let us all empower and cultivate more women heroes and champions of disaster resilience. Together, we can strive towards a vision of a more resilient and sustainable future.

Thank you very much! Isang luntiang Pilipinas sa ating lahat!