Message of the UNDP Country Director, Mr. Toshihiro Tanaka

07 Mar 2013

Memorandum of Agreement Signing: Enhancing Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration towards Building Community Resilience among National Government Agencies and Local Government Units in the Pasig-Marikina-Tullahan River Basin, Amihan Hall, PAGASA Science Garden, Agham Road, Quezon City

Magandang umaga (good morning)! 

I am pleased to take part in this ceremony today to witness the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs) which seek to strengthen multi-stakeholder collaboration on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) in the Pasig-Marikina-Tullahan River Basin. The formation and launching today of the “Metro Manila-Rizal Network” signifies the growing commitment of key leaders in both national and local government to an auspicious partnership that is envisioned to help in building community resilience to natural disasters.

Given the increasing severity of weather disturbances that visit the Philippines, and the accelerating pace at which the harsh effects of climate change are felt in our lives, it is such an important task to reach out to each other and join forces in order to address our common challenges. In the face of natural disasters, collaboration should know no geographical boundaries and the more institutions share their expertise and resources to advance disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts, then the better positioned we are to deal with possible catastrophes.

There is good reason to believe that little compelling is needed these days to underscore the urgent need for DRRM efforts. Many of us here have in fact seen and directly experienced the far-reaching damage that typhoons, flashfloods and the like could bring upon people’s lives and property.

In the latter part of 2009, you all bore witness to the wrath of Tropical Storm Ondoy which broke 50-year records in terms of rainfall and virtually submerged the country’s capital for the first time in many decades, including areas in NCR previously considered to be safe from flooding. Not long ago in the second half of 2012, extreme flooding was again experienced in Metro Manila due to rains ushered in by the “habagat” (southwest monsoon) submerging in water yet again many of the areas affected by Ondoy only a few years earlier.

Indeed the threat of natural disasters is very much real and imminent in the Philippines, the same threat that has manifested itself and taken the lives of many in other parts of the world. Before coming to assume my post in UNDP Philippines, I myself came from working in UNDP in another disaster-prone country in South Asia specifically Pakistan which has its own share of natural disasters such as flooding, droughts, and earthquakes. Upon my assumption of duty in the Philippines, one of the major challenges which UNDP has had to address so far is yet another natural disaster–the deadly Typhoon Pablo which killed many Filipinos in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

The significance of addressing the threat of natural disasters cannot be overemphasized. Especially for a country that is prone to catastrophes such as the Philippines, it is one concern that we must increasingly incorporate into our overall development agenda in the 21st century. That the Philippines has passed the Philippine DRRM Act of 2010, which puts emphasis on disaster risk reduction, is a sign of the country’s commitment to avert the threat of disasters. We must nevertheless continue to be vigilant and advocate its full implementation.

Let me end by saying that UNDP is pleased to have supported through the Resilience Project the establishment of the Metro Manila-Rizal Network. It is commendable that NGAs and LGUs facing common disaster risks–in this case the risk of flooding in the Pasig-Marikina-Tullahan River Basin–are communicating with each other in order to strategize and look for solutions together. I hope that the Metro Manila-Rizal Network will encourage other NGAs and LGUs in the country facing the same risks to come together and collaborate.

To the agencies that will sign the MOA during today’s ceremony, congratulations and more power!

Thank you and a pleasant morning to all of you!