Press Release
January 14, 2009


Senator Loren Legarda calls for the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) to be more pro-active in its approach to disasters rather than wait for disasters to happen and then belatedly respond.

Legarda bemoaned the lack of preparation in the recent flashfloods and landslides in Misamis Oriental, Negros Oriental, and certain parts of the country despite prompt predictions of heavy rains and flash floods by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geographical and Astronomical Administration (PAGASA). "We've been going through this cycle of flash floods, landslides, and other natural disasters as far back as we could remember. By now, we should already be at a stage when typhoons cause us minimal damage," Legarda said.

Legarda said that the public have become so accustomed with news of natural disasters that the recent flash floods that affected many parts of the country no longer shocked the public.

"To think that at least five people were reported dead in Cagayan de Oro City, many barangays submerged in many parts of Mindanao and the Visayas, thousands of families forced to leave their homes, poor rural communities were swept away by rampaging waters, and properties amounting to millions were destroyed should be a cause of alarm," Legarda said. "However, these misfortunes that affected many of our countrymen went by as if the deaths, displacements, and damages are everyday occurrences in our country."

It was reported that five people were killed and 40,000 families were affected in Misamis Oriental. In Catanduanes, 9,000 families were forced to flee from their homes while properties amounting to P11 million were destroyed in Negros Oriental.

"We can't prevent typhoons from passing by our country but we can mitigate, if not prevent their effects such as flash floods, landslides, and damages by preparation," Legarda said.

Legarda noted that the NDCC should be leading the country into the direction of "lessening casualties and losses after typhoons and similar natural phenomena."

The NDCC, which was created in 1978, is mandated to carry out "disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response." Legarda also said that over the years, more and more people are living along coasts, riverbanks and mountain slopes and that climate change will cause more intense typhoons. As a consequence, more people are becoming vulnerable to natural disasters.

"The national and local governments must be urged to strengthen their disaster risk management systems to reduce the exposure of people to risks of disasters," Legarda said.

A study commissioned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and conducted by the Manila Observatory in 2007 revealed that more families will be driven from their homes communities will be relocated because of climate-related disasters. Moreover, the study found out that "severe flooding on the extreme can totally re-write the contours of the land."

"I urge the government to invest in climate- and disaster-proofing infrastructures," Legarda said.

Legarda also suggested that the government should "identify areas highly vulnerable to climate change, localize assessment of risks, raise awareness and employ adaptive measures to address the adverse impacts of the climate crisis."

Legarda explained that different localities have unique topographical and geological characteristics that subject them to different disasters and calamities. She noted that mountainsides are prone to landslides while low-lying areas, particularly those near riverbanks are prone to flashfloods like what happened in Cagayan de Oro City and other parts of Misamis Oriental where the Kagay-an River is located.

"The NDCC would be very instrumental in this. It is empowered to craft policies to organize disaster coordinating councils from the national to the municipal levels," Legard said.

Legarda also urged the NDCC and other appropriate government agencies to come up with a list of the most probable calamities that may occur in each locality of the country so that local officials could invest in infrastructure suitable for the locality.

Legarda was recently appointed in December as the Asia Pacific Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction from the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

Disaster risk reduction is a term used for strategies that focus on preventing or minimizing the effects of disasters.

The UNISDR chose Legarda because of her known advocacy for a comprehensive, effective, and proactive response to disasters and calamities that affect mostly the poor in rural communities.

"The Regional Champion is a person of integrity who has consistently demonstrated a deep concern for the world's poor and a commitment to making the world a safer and better place for all," according to the UNISDR.

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