Press Release
March 17, 2011

Transcript of Kapihan sa Senado with Sen. Loren Legarda

On natural catastrophies

We don't sit idle by and wait, we prepare. That is why for the longest time all this year, if not decade, I have been advocating disaster preparedness, not just disaster response. Ano ang ibig kong sabihin? Tama ang ginagawa ng DPWH at dapat bilisan at lalong pa igtingin ang kanilang pag mo-monitor, hindi lamang ang 1,000 gusali kung hindi lahat ng mga infrastructure gaya ang skyway, MRT at LRT. Hindi yan pag-hihintay lamang. Yan ay proactive na ginagawa at pag hindi kaya ang 8 magnitude sa scale ay dapat i-retrofit na kaagad ang MRT, LRT, Skyway, tulay at kung ano pang mga madalas puntahan ng tao. Maliban dyan, ang ating mga malls. Kaya hindi pwede gawin ng DPWH lahat. Hinihimok ko ang lahat ng may ari ng ating mga teatro, cinema, malls, mga ilang floors sa mga public parking, na i-check lahat ang kanilang mga gusali. Pati na rin ang mga engineering associations, structural and civil engineers, tumulong na din ang pribadong sector.

Apart from that, 'yung atin revised national building code 2005, tingnan natin kung updated ba ito. At sa building code natin, ang mga LGUs naman ay magpapatupad ng strict implementation. That's not sitting idly by and waiting for things to happen. Dapat may maliwanag na simpleng alituntunan na guidelines ibibigay up to the barangay level.

They have inspected 1,100 buildings but as to buildings in danger, I don't think I have elicited that information from my committee.

Q: How can a barangay know that a tsunami is coming?

As of now radio. Of course there's internet, text and radio. Assuming walang radio, walang cell site, ang flow of information ay maging word of mouth, last resort na 'yan. I think in 2005 in Southern Leyte, there was a warning that there will be a landslide because of the heavy rains but it was not transmitted immediately to the barangay.

I just talked to (DPWH) Sec. Singson and on-going ang kanilang monitoring evaluation on all public infrastructure, but he didn't say the deadline although their effort is continuing. But I would like the public sector to help out kasi hindi lang naman ang public buildings ang ating concern. Mga high-rise buildings and malls especially during this summer when people will flock to the malls. We can probably ask Mercalco, the SM malls, Robinson malls and Ayala malls to also come to our hearing. The officials responsible for safety standards and we can also ask the league of municipalities who are supposed to implement the building code.

I think priority should be the LRT, MRT, skyway, tollways and even our dams. We must ensure that our dams will not easily break because if they do, water will be released and it will be a problem. It is important that implementation of law will be up to the local level, that's why our continuing level is generating awareness, knowledge and implementation of the laws. Only local government officials will know. Kaming policy makers, we make the laws but while we know it in reports kung saan ang disaster-prone areas, kung saan ang landslide based on DENR submission to the committee but in the end its really the local government that will implement it. That is why we need local government partners para itutupad lahat ng mga batas. So our natural hazards will not become natural disasters.

We have seen in recent events the importance of intelligence information sa ating mga foreign posts and especially now that we have a new secretary of foreign affairs, we must remind them to increase their level of information gathering so that we don't have to act only when it's very urgent and immediate repatriation has to be made. Of course, we cannot monitor earthquakes but in terms of political tension, domestic conflicts, these can be monitored by knowing the politics of the place. It could be in Libya or Bahrain or other areas in the Middle East. It is important that we have remedial measures in place. I also want to know from the Labor department whether we are ready to absorb the thousands of Overseas Filipinos coming home. Handa ba tayo nabigyan ng trabaho at bigyan ng skills ang atin na mangagawa na umuuwi. At alamin natin sa OWWA kung na- access na sila ang karapat dapat nilang pondo para sa reintegration into the economy.

On introduction of whistle as an early warning devise

It is national disaster management councils, up to the local level. They should coordinate with the local government units, the mayors, governors and down to the barangays. That would implement their local disaster plan. It doesn't have to be whistles, it can be flags, it can be sirens. And just to reiterate the importance of it all, what does disaster preparedness mean? In a country like Bangladesh which is No. 1 in terms of mortality risk index, the Philippines is No. 7 in terms of vulnerability when it comes to earthquake, and we are top 10 in the world sa total natural hazards. And Bangladesh has learned their lessons. 20 years ago when there was a cyclone, more than a 100 died because they were not prepared. They learned their lesson and they prepared their early warning devises and when a cyclone hit them again, I think 3,000 died. From a 100,000people to 3,000. What I am saying is that preparedness really reduces risk. I enjoy everyone to be united and be one against risk.

Another example is China. They built flood control projects worth $1 billon which averted losses over $3billion. So disaster reduction and preparedness should be considered as an investment and not a loss. In short, government units, with limited IRA, could go to building sound structures instead of it going to reconstruction of building units after a quake or typhoon. If we build our structures well the first time it could prevent a natural hazard from becoming a natural disaster. That is the rationale behind disaster risk reduction, that it is a good investment and it will reduce the risk and reduce the cost after a natural hazard had hit us.

On climate change budget

The investment should be at least two percent of the total annual budget. Two percent of the total annual budget to climate change and disaster risk reduction. The Philippines, in the 2011 budget, more than two percent went into the RRNCCA. However, much of that went to salaries. It should go to actual climate adaptation and disaster reduction projects like mangrove reforestation that serves as buffer for (inaudible), budget for disaster information campaign. Every country that has invested in disaster operation ay hindi nag-sisi.

I talked to Sec. Singson and he knows the urgency of providing structures for all of us, so of course those that are condemned should either be demolished or retrofitted. Dapat hanapin natin 'yan sa 2012 budget because we just cannot allow people to die because we didn't have the funds to retrofit the buildings. In short, our information will be useless if we do not do any action.

On visit to countryside

The level of preparedness, depende sa hazard. Pag tsunami, sa coastal area, I'm almost certain they are aware but what to do, hindi pa siguro maliwanag. The level of awareness of people in the countryside will be depended on the local government unit. Provincial government of Albay for instance, has a high level of awareness. The mayor in Kamotes island in Cebu always attend my seminars and talks so very high 'yung level of awareness. The 35 LGUs of Cebu that committed to us recently, Makati, Marikina and all the 30 mayors who committed to UN program on disaster resilient cities.

On impeachment

I will leave it to the majority leader and the Senate leadership to decide on the rules because we had an impeachment in 2001 and we may adopt similar rules. If there are amendments we will probably discuss it on the floor. I have a copy of the rules. I will just follow whatever the Senate leadership will approve.

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