Saturday, June 7, 2014
MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda highlighted the challenge of translating knowledge into practice to effectively manage disasters and reduce risks, during her opening keynote speech today at the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) Conference 2014 in Beijing, China.
Legarda, UNISDR Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in Asia-Pacific, said that the overflowing information and statistics on natural hazards, disaster risks and climate change should be communicated to and understood by governments and communities to be able to make science work towards building resilient communities.
“It is not enough that climate scientists know the risks. Governments, local leaders and the people on the ground should understand the vulnerability of their communities and be equipped with options, resources and the tools to enable them to become drivers of action in their respective communities,” she said.
The Senator cited the Philippines’ experience during Typhoon Haiyan. Authorities warned communities about storm surges that may reach up to six meters high. Many citizens stocked up on food, secured their homes and stayed indoors, not knowing that it was not the kind of preparation for a storm surge. Even those in evacuation centers were not spared from the deadly onslaught of the storm surges.
“Was it a case of inadequate information or a case of information not being understood and appreciated by national and local officials, and by the people on the ground? People had no notion of storm surges, plain and simple. In the end, it cost thousands of lives,” she lamented.
Furthermore, an assessment of Tacloban, which greatly bore the brunt of the storm’s impact, showed that the city’s location is highly susceptible to disaster risks. The geohazard map for Tacloban showed a province massively covered by color purple on its outskirts and red within, which means the coastal areas were susceptible to flooding, while the inland was highly susceptible to landslides.
“The map’s color coding scheme represented susceptibility to landslides and flooding, but the people did not know any of that. The challenge here is to translate scientific terminologies to layman’s terms. Citizens should be able to digest the information on a geo-hazard map or a weather bulletin. Raising public awareness should be made to resonate loudly and as far deep into the communities as possible,” Legarda said.
She explained that science is needed in strengthening building codes; making risk-sensitive land use plans that are linked into yearly investment plans of governments; adopting early warning system for crop harvests; capacitating private sector, especially the micro, small and medium enterprises, in creating business continuity plans that reflect corporate strategy on how to swiftly spring back to operations after each disaster.
“Scientific experts need to be given the wherewithal to do their job of gathering, validating and processing scientific data that will enable the accurate prediction of events. These are indispensable inputs to designing practical solutions and communicating the risks to our people. Knowing when, where and in what magnitude a natural hazard will strike is fundamental to keeping our people prepared,” she said.
“We have come together to this conference to exchange knowledge and devise strategies. We must use this opportunity not just to gain knowledge from one another, but also to transform that knowledge into concrete actions. We are builders not just of communities of today, but communities of the future. Let us not rebuild the risks. We must rebuild stronger and wiser,” said Legarda.
MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today hailed the 2014 Post-Haiyan Tacloban Declaration, the outcome of the three-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference held from June 4-6, 2014, as another concrete step towards mainstreaming disaster resilience and building back stronger efforts.
Legarda, ASEM Conference Plenary Speaker on the role of women in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), said that the Declaration magnifies the importance of convergence among national and local governments, international and regional organizations, NGOs, private sector, civil society and media to heighten DRRM efforts as they take into account the massive devastation brought by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Philippine communities.
“We welcome the Post-Haiyan Tacloban Declaration with great hope that we all have learned our lessons from the disasters of the past and that this will lead to better disaster resilience efforts,” she said.
The Senator said that the document highlights the need to mainstream DRRM in development planning as well as the importance of building back better and stronger communities that have been affected by disasters.
It also calls on DRRM stakeholders to ensure the protection, empowerment and resilience building of vulnerable groups—women, children, the elderly, differently abled people and indigenous communities.
“The Post-Haiyan Tacloban Declaration will help us in our aim to increase the understanding of disaster and climate science, impacts and policy responses, encourage disaster and climate-proofing of development plans and learn from successful experiences of communities and other countries,” said Legarda.
“It is evident that reducing disaster risks and adapting to climate change have become the greatest humanitarian and development challenges of our time. With the concern and involvement of all nations, we will be able to rise as one human community towards safer, resilient societies,” Legarda concluded.
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