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APEC members urged to strengthen cooperation in disaster preparedness

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – The Philippines on Tuesday called for greater cooperation on disaster preparedness among Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member-countries, saying this would allow them to cope with the effects of “the new normal.”

In a keynote message delivered during the 9th Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum here, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the increasing complexities of disasters require a robust collaboration and longer term measures.

“Disasters are becoming more unpredictable, with increased frequencies, magnitude and scope. The manifestations confirm that disasters can strike any economy at the most unexpected place and time,” Gazmin said.

“With the emerging concept of the ‘new normal,’ we need a more holistic, proactive, multi-stakeholder, and longer term interventions, specifically to make our economies resilient against disasters,” he added.

Citing a World Bank estimate, Gazmin said APEC economies have incurred disaster-related losses of more than $100-billion every year for the last ten years.

“The prevalence of disasters in the ‘new normal’ manifestation has serious implications to our inter-economic relations as it cuts across several APEC concerns and priorities. This ‘new normal” phenomenon causes major disruptions to trade relations, businesses and investments across the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.

“Most importantly, disasters have caused tragic losses of precious lives of citizens in the APEC communities,” he added.

Gazmin reiterated the need to come up with a framework that would include disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the APEC agenda.

“The APEC framework on disaster risk reduction is primarily aimed to promote APEC-wide collaboration on disaster risk reduction by providing a common direction in order for the economies to be more responsive to the new realities on the serious threats and challenges posed by stronger and more frequent disasters,” he said.

One of the recommendations of the proposed framework is to elevate DRR to the ministerial level or to high-level policy dialogues.

Gazmin said elevating the issue to ministers’ level would strengthen efforts to provide benchmarks, set directions and determine APEC plans in managing disasters.

Officials previously said that the framework may be completed by the end of the Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum. The draft will then be submitted to the APEC economic leaders for approval in November.

Sen. Loren Legarda, a climate change adaptation advocate, said DRR should be included in local governments’ plans.

“Local disaster risk reduction and management councils must ensure the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local development plans, programs and budgets as a strategy in sustainable development and poverty reduction,” Legarda said in a speech read by Climate Change Commission Commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman.

“The general framework and policy for DRR should emanate from the highest leadership in order for our economies to tread on a similar path towards resilience. However, good policies are ineffective if we do not bring them to the local level,” she added.

Legarda said the government needs the support of the business community in rebuilding disaster-struck areas.

“There should be better investments in flood control, forest management, hazard identification, mapping and assessment, research and development, and risk financing,” Legarda said.

“The private sector has the potential to bring in core competencies for shaping innovative and sustainable solutions and therefore plays a vital role in building resilience,” she added.

Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran said disasters take away one percent of APEC gross domestic product – the sum total of goods and services produced by an economy in a given period – every year.

He said there is a need to implement measures to enable small and medium enterprises to cope with the impact of calamities.

At least P285 billion worth of properties have been damaged and more than 13,000 persons have died due to disasters that struck the Philippines since 2010, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. 

 

ACIRC APEC ASIA PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION CLIMATE CHANGE COMMISSION COMMISSIONER EMMANUEL DEFENSE SECRETARY VOLTAIRE GAZMIN DISASTER DISASTERS FINANCE UNDERSECRETARY GIL BELTRAN GAZMIN LEGARDA SENIOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT OFFICIALS FORUM
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