Message of UNDP Country Director, Mr. Toshihiro Tanaka

04 Jul 2013

Project Rebuild Launching, Tuguegarao, Cagayan

Mayor Jefferson Soriano
Ms. Edna Junio, representing Governor Antonio
Secretary Mamba
Secretary Lucille Sering
Ambassador Levermore
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be in this beautiful city of Tuguegarao and a novelty to see a portion of the Philippines’ northern territories in the province of Cagayan. At the outset, we would like to thank our gracious hosts, Governor Antonio and Mayor Soriano, for the warm hospitality shown to us since we arrived.

We would have wanted to meet under more benign circumstances and talk only about pleasant things but the increasing threat from natural hazards and climate change, is forcing us to come together and discuss urgent response measures to these dangers.

Climate change, despite the skepticism of many, is already here. The series of disasters from typhoons which have become stronger, is a clear manifestation of this fact. And countries vulnerable to natural hazards like the Philippines, have no choice but come to terms with the fact that they cannot proceed “business as usual”. Although the Philippines is no stranger to the adverse impacts of natural hazards like typhoons, flooding, landslides, earthquakes, etc.., being in the Pacific Ring of Fire and in the typhoon path, the increasing uncertainties of extreme weather events attributed to climate change, are outstripping the country’s capacity to cope.

However, the good news is, intensifying natural hazards because of climate change need not necessarily translate to disasters. There is such a thing as “anticipatory adaptation to climate change” and the more conventional notion of “disaster risk reduction”. These concepts and principles underpin the project that we are launching today, “Resilience Capacity Building for Cities and Municipalities to Reduce Disaster Risks from Climate Change and Natural Hazards”, otherwise known simply as “ Rebuild”.

In partnership with the Climate Change Commission and the Government of New Zealand, the United Nations Development Programme is pleased to launch this initiative in this Region today. UNDP’s collaborative work on disaster risk management has a rather interesting history, starting with the Payatas dumpsite and Marcopper tailings dam collapse in the nineties and on to the Quezon flooding tragedy in 2004, Leyte in 2005, Metro Manila in 2009, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in 2010 and most recently, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley in 2012. Noting that the mitigation responses to the growing uncertainty of meteorological hazards due to climate change cannot be “intuitive” and should be systematic, UNDP facilitated the dialogue among the “risk” agencies (PAGASA, PhiVOLCS, MGB and NAMRIA) which started the multi-agency, multi-donor collaboration to produce the scientific information and data, including multi-hazard maps, for risk assessment (or vulnerability and adaptation assessments, in climate change language), the results of which provide an objective basis for risk management which have found their way into national and local processes like land use and development planning and regulatory systems.

UNDP and its partners, notably the Governments of New Zealand and Australia, advocate an integrated and systematic risk management approach to prevent or lessen the impacts of disasters. This approach consists of disaster avoidance through such interventions as developing risk-based comprehensive land use and development plans, contingency planning and early warning systems, re-engineering and risk sharing/transfer mechanisms like insurance to ensure that those who are affected by disasters can immediately recover. Resilient livelihoods for the poor are also part of the package, noting that resilient communities can recover more quickly when hit by disasters.

This disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation work is incremental, and here in Cagayan, under the Rebuild Project, we are additionally putting in the concept of integrated risk sources, i.e. the river basin approach as opposed to a single tributary approach in determining the possible danger like increased flooding because of climate change. Hopefully, the results can help the Cagayanos to organize themselves to deal with the flooding danger in a more systematic manner, moving out of harm’s way at the right time. It can also help you decide how and where to locate your people and their socioeconomic support systems such that lives are spared and economic costs due to disasters are avoided.

We would, therefore, like to exhort the Cagayanos to participate in this paradigm shifting from “simply reacting when disasters strike” to avoiding disasters or lessening their consequences by making the appropriate interventions NOW. As they say, understanding the problem (which is the essence of the Rebuild project) is half the solution. Unfortunately, some things cannot be done through short cut processes. Dealing with the dangers of natural hazards and the additionality of climate change is one of them.

We would like thank our partners, especially the Government of New Zealand, represented by Ambassador Levermore and the Climate Change Commission led by Secretary Sering for making initiatives like Rebuild possible. We hope this partnership holds until we are able to support the needs of all vulnerable LGUs and their communities become totally safe.

We would like to thank you Cagayanos once again for your warm hospitality and we look forward to the success of Rebuild in this critical part of the Philippines. Mabuhay kayong lahat!