Thursday, June 5, 2014

Legarda Tells ASEM: Empowering Women, Part of Addressing New Norm

MANILA-Speaking at the plenary session of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Senator Loren Legarda today said that empowering women is part of the change that needs to be introduced in the face of the “new norm.”

“Women around the world and here in the Philippines do extraordinary things to contribute to societies’ growth. We need to heighten their participation in the planning and implementation of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) activities. It is about time that we usher in a new phase where women and girls are no longer just portrayed as victims but as heroes,” said Legarda in stressing the role of women in DRRM.

Legarda, the United Nations Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, said that women are more vulnerable to disasters as shown in several statistics. Women comprised 61% of the fatalities in the 2008 Myanmar cyclone; 67% in the Indian Ocean Tsunami in Banda, Aceh; and 95% in the Cyclone Gorky in Bangladesh.

Furthermore, women have distinct nutritional needs, which when unmet, make coping with disasters tougher for them. For instance, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, more than 3.5 million women and girls of reproductive age were affected, 250,000 of whom were pregnant and 169,000 were breastfeeding.

Women and girls displaced from their homes are also at greater risk of being subjected to sexual violence or victimized by human traffickers.

“Despite the greater risks they face, Filipino women doctors, nurses, paramedics and civilian volunteers were among the first day responders in the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan,” said Legarda.

“These realities tell us that we need to capacitate women not only as primary caregivers in times of disaster and economic distress, but also as part of the overall strategy on DRRM. To empower women is to reduce their vulnerability to disasters,” she stressed.

The Senator said that women’s practical needs, interests and concerns must be given due consideration in crafting policies and plans and in implementing programs and delivery of interventions.

“As women assume greater role in building a culture of disaster resilience, we must provide stronger support by protecting their needs and rights, capacitating them to be sufficient providers and allowing them to be decision-makers,” she said.

Legarda explained that there is a need to align the institutional mechanisms for DRRM with the policies that address gender issues, including livelihood development, women’s welfare and development, protection from violence and anti-trafficking in women.

“Women share the risks with everyone else, and as the statistics will show, the impacts of disasters have been more telling and more severe upon women. A changeover is needed in the way women are being involved in disaster risk reduction and management efforts.  This is not an option. It is the only way we can have an effective DRRM,” said Legarda.

Address PHL’s Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise, Legarda Tells Gov’t as World Observes Env’t Day

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today called on the government to address the vulnerability of Philippine communities that would be affected by sea level rise, which is seen to displace 13.6 million Filipinos by the year 2050.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, made the call as nations celebrate World Environment Day on today, June 5, with the theme “Raise your voice, not the sea level.”

“The celebration of World Environment Day is not only about the environment per se. Climate change, disasters and extreme weather events are the other issues that are linked to the environment,” she said.

“The message of this year’s World Environment Day focuses on the risks posed by rising sea level and the vulnerability of coastal communities and small island nations. Several studies have already noted the high vulnerability of coastal communities in the Philippines to sea level rise. This is the challenge that we must address because according to a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), sea level rise will affect at least 13.6 million Filipinos who will have to relocate to higher, safer places,” Legarda stressed.

The 2012 ADB study “Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific,” said that the Philippines is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change and it is ranked 5th in terms of individuals affected by sea level rise.

The Senator also noted a study by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Climate Change Program which showed that a total of 167,290 hectares of seashore land in 171 coastal towns under 10 provinces will go underwater due to a one-meter sea level rise.

The 10 provinces are Cagayan, Palawan, Iloilo, Zamboanga Sibugay, Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Bohol, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

Legarda, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said that while there is little the country can do to prevent sea level rise, it can reduce the risks and act ahead of time to protect the communities that will be most affected.

“With the threat of sea level rise, local government units especially of the 10 most vulnerable provinces must already update their respective comprehensive land use plans and they have to gradually relocate communities near the seashore land. Since we are also experiencing stronger storms, we have to build resilient infrastructure and it is important to strengthen the defense of coastal communities by building natural buffers through massive mangrove reforestation,” she explained.

“Sea level rise is a great challenge for an archipelagic country like the Philippines and while we cannot prevent it from happening, we must do everything in our capacity to reduce its effect on our people. Even if our country is a minor emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG), which is the major cause of global warming, we still have to pursue a low carbon lifestyle and strengthen environment conservation efforts as a way of urging other nations, especially the developed countries that are major emitters of GHG, to drastically reduce their GHG emissions and assist countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Legarda concluded.


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