Reducing Disaster Risk & Climate Change Adaptation

Article excerpt

ENVELOPED with both a sense of elation and urgency, I rise to share with you, my fellow legislators, our recent triumphs in moving the international community to reexamine the climate change agenda. Before I do so, however, let me first backtrack a bit.

(Privilege speech delivered at the Senate Session Hall, November 10, 2008.)

For more than two decades now, the world has been grappling with the issues of climate change and disaster risk reduction. As we have witnessed within the confines of our own territory as well as in the experience of our neighbors, the unraveling of climate change effects has resulted in disasters of unprecedented proportions, causing multiple losses -- economic, social, even political and cultural. Being peculiarly located in a natural disaster-prone zone, the Philippines has incurred enormous losses brought about by various calamities such as earthquakes, typhoons, and droughts. Our neighbors China and Japan also lost billions of dollars to snowstorms and earthquake. We were likewise baffled by the way Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean Tsunami ravished the livelihood of countless families and communities. The drawback on the national economy cannot be underestimated.

What is immensely disturbing -- and in fact unpardonable -- however, is that every time a disaster strikes, the already vulnerable segments of society, such as the poor, the women, and the children -- are the most severely affected and rendered even more helpless. Yet, despite the obvious interconnection among climate change, disaster risk reduction, poverty, and sustainable development, we have contented ourselves with reactionary, piecemeal, and often incoherent and insufficient responses and strategies. We address each disaster occurrence by distributing relief goods, which is of course needed, but this type of response is much like that age-old remedy of coating a leaking pipe with a sealant when what is actually needed is a new and more durable rustproof pipe that could withstand the next surge of water. It simply will not do anymore. The need to develop a new global legal framework for disaster risk reduction vis-A -vis climate change adaptation could no longer be ignored. It is time to disaster-proof and climate change-proof our people, livelihoods, and national economic growth.

I am pleased to say that through the Philippines' leadership, we have steered this novel discourse to the forefront. This is one of the triumphs I am proud to share with you today. A couple of weeks ago, I, in partnership with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, convened the "Roundtable Consultative Meeting for Parliamentarians: Disaster Risk Reduction as a Tool for Adapting to Climate Change." Ten Parliamentarians from nine nations gathered in Manila to discuss how to create an enabling environment for promoting disaster risk reduction, mainstream it into socioeconomic development, and make it a national and international priority. Appreciating the need for immediate implementation of these strategies, the Parliamentarians came up with The Manila Call for Action of Parliamentarians on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation.

In this statement, the Parliamentarians present made various commitments. As an immediate course of action, we promised to report on the outcome of the meeting to our respective Parliaments. This is why I have come before you today -- to impart the lessons and consensuses of this twoday high-level caucus and implore your cooperation and active participation in realizing the goals of climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, poverty reduction, and human security, as components of the higher goal of sustainable development for all.

Acknowledging that this cause requires international cooperation, we also called on fellow parliamentarians around the world and on all Governments to take pro-active steps in reducing disaster risks and adapting to climate change. …