Intereconomy cooperation in dealing with disasters urged
ILOILO CITY—Philippine officials called for stronger cooperation and high-level policy dialogue in the Asia-Pacific to address disaster management concerns and issues.
Speaking at the opening of the two-day 9th Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (Apec) at the Iloilo Convention Center, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said there was a need for “more holistic, proactive, multi-stakeholder and longer term interventions… to make our economies resilient against disasters.”
Gazmin, also chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, stressed that disasters which had become more unpredictable and more frequent in scope and magnitude were the “new normal” reality that economies had to contend with.
He said these disasters had caused major disruptions to trade relations, businesses and investments across the Asia-Pacific region.
Losses and damages of Apec economies brought about by disasters reached more than $100 billion yearly for the last 10 years, according to Gazmin, citing World Bank estimates.
“The [forum] highlights that disasters risk reduction is not just a concern of an economy or a small group of economies, a sector or an organization by itself alone. Rather, disaster risk reduction requires a robust and sustainable intereconomy cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region,” Gazmin said.
Founded in 1989, Apec is a multilateral international organization that seeks to foster free trade and economic prosperity among its member-economies in the Asia-Pacific region. It includes Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States of America and Vietnam.
Gazmin acknowledged that the Apec had considered disaster risk reduction as one of its priorities and had introduced innovations, developed policies and organized working bodies.
He said the primary goal of this year’s forum was to endorse to economic leaders the proposed framework as “a new paradigm to mainstream disaster risk reduction in the Apec agenda.”
One of the expected recommendations under the framework is the elevation of the disaster risk reduction issue to “a ministerial level, or at the very least, to high level policy dialogues,” he said.
Gazmin said this would “help upscale the forum’s role in providing directions, setting benchmarks and in determining future plans for the entire Apec in managing the new normal manifestations of disasters.”
In his welcome remarks, Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor said disaster risk reduction and management were “concerns which years back we did not give any special attention or concern.”
But he said “the prevailing conditions all over the world demand that we give this not only special concern and attention, but priority.”
Iloilo province was among the worst hit by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) which ravaged mostly areas in central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013.
In a message read by Climate Change Commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman, Sen. Loren Legarda said intereconomy cooperation in dealing with disasters must be strengthened.
“Disasters know no boundaries or borders. As we make our respective economies resilient and sustainable, the whole region will benefit if we can support each other through strengthened collaborative research, technology transfer, capacity building and knowledge sharing,” Legarda said.
“While Apec has brought a number of benefits in terms of trade, investments and promoting ease of doing business in the region, we have to ask ourselves if we have done enough to ensure that our economies are addressing the effects of climate change. If you are not prepared to address these, then there is no trade to speak of,” she added.
Legarda also cited the “great challenge” to incorporate disaster risk reduction in the development agenda.
“The general framework on policy for [disaster risk reduction] should emanate from the highest leadership in order for our economies to tread on similar path towards resilience,” Legarda said.
But she said “good policies are ineffective if we do not bring them to the local level.”
She also called for support from private sector in disaster risk reduction and management.
“There should be better investments in flood control, forest management, hazard identification, mapping and assessment, research and development and risk financing. 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,” Legarda said.