Press Release
February 19, 2012

Welcome Speech of Senator Koko Pimentel
At the 1st Mindanao Summit on Disaster Risk Reduction and Geo-Hazard Awareness,
February 18-19, 2012, Dynasty Court Hotel, Cagayan de Oro City

Welcome to the ground zero of the Sendong tragedy.

We are here to learn whatever we can learn so that the more than 1,000 lives lost in Sendong would not have been lost in vain.

I have personal knowledge of the spontaneous outpouring of sympathy and support from all kinds of people, Filipinos and foreigners, in the Philippines and abroad. On behalf of the people affected by typhoon Sendong, let me say to all of you generous hearts: THANK YOU VERY MUCH. MARAMING SALAMAT. DAGHANG SALAMAT KANINYONG TANAN!

The holding of this summit occurred to me naturally.

I immediately felt the need for a Back to Basics seminar. Let us re-learn what we already know. Let us hear again what we have already heard. Let us sign again a covenant we have already signed. Back to basics never hurt anyone.

Allow me to thank the people who gave me the critical support and inspiration in the holding of this Summit: my co-convener, fellow Mindanaonon TG Guingona; Congresswoman Bai Sandra Sema, who first proposed to me the need to have a summit like this; Lu Antonino, who seconded Bai Sandra's idea; my very good friends Amina Rasul, Tony Lavina, Popoy de Vera. And of course the Australian Aid Program, and the University of the Philippines, and Ateneo and Xavier Universities.

I am a Mindanaonon, I was born here in Cagayan de Oro City. Hence I care about Mindanao.

Sendong showed us the centrality of the Province of Bukidnon. But how many of us know that? And even if we know that already, how many of us know its implication?

Sendong also showed us the importance of watersheds and water systems. Do we know where Mindanao's watersheds are? Do we know if Mindanao's water systems are connected to each other?

I was a flood victim myself. I was in Marikina when Ondoy inundated almost the entire Metro Manila. Before Ondoy hit, I received no warning whatsoever about its potential hazards. During Ondoy, I saw for myself the absence of government. After Ondoy, I saw the hardships brought upon the people.

I know how difficult it is after surviving a calamitous event to recover from the losses and go back to normal life.

But through the spirit of bayanihan, sa ating pagtutulungan, we can do it!

We are holding this Summit in Cagayan de Oro City to show to the entire world that the city is back on its feet. We are back in business, thanks to you who helped.

We are holding this back to basics Summit so that we can learn from our respective experiences, from scientific analyses and studies, and from best practices.

It is my fervent wish that each participant will go home after this Summit with a better idea on how to mitigate the effects on his or her community of natural disasters and even to prevent man-made disasters.

Let us also thank our speakers who are sharing with us their expertise and their time: Senators Loren Legarda and Gringo Honasan, Archbishop Ledesma, Sec. Soliman, Sec. Sering, Usec. Ramos, Dr. Narisma, Prof. Lagmay, Phivolcs, Prof. Quiaoit, Dr. Malano, Ms. Cagay. Also our guests from disaster prone areas to share with us their tried and tested formulas: Gov. Salceda of Albay and Vice Mayor Arquillano of Camotes Island, Cebu.

Welcome to all of you to the City of Golden Friendship. May we all become friends and learn from each other.

Thank you and good morning to all.

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