Press Release
June 7, 2012

Keynote Speech
Building a Resilient Central Luzon
Collaboration Workshop for the Pampanga River Basin
Oxford Hotel, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to this Collaboration Workshop for the Pampanga River Basin to build a resilient Central Luzon.

In convening this assembly, I am particularly grateful to the Provincial Government of Pampanga for hosting this gathering.

We thank the Local Government Academy (LGA) under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) for organizing with us this important initiative.

We have centered the discussions in this workshop on the Pampanga River Basin, taking into consideration not only the fact that almost the whole of Central Luzon and nearby provinces in Regions I and II will be greatly affected by hazards that would hit the river basin, but also that the tributaries connected to it form a system that supports life and livelihood of a great proportion of the country.

Central Luzon is an important source of the country's basic needs. As the country's rice granary, it produced 2.6 million metric tons of rice in 2011.[1] Meanwhile, the Pampanga River Basin, which covers a total area of 10,540 square kilometers, provides about 90%of the domestic water needs of Metro Manila.[2]

A study by the Manila Observatory revealed that Central Luzon is a high risk region, while Pampanga is the second most at risk province nationwide, in terms of vulnerability to disasters and climate change.[3]

Typhoons 'Pedring' and 'Quiel' in 2011 brought massive rains in the region, inundating several provinces including Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija, and damaged a total of 281,754 hectares (has) of agricultural land and 530,000 metric tons (MT) of palay, estimated at Php8.6 Billion, in Central Luzon.[4]

Certainly, we do not want a scenario similar to the Cagayan River Basin disaster in December 2011, when typhoon Sendong killed more than a thousand individuals, submerged a large part of Cagayan de Oro, and swept away whole villages.

This experience, however, need not make us hopeless, because despite the high vulnerability of the Pampanga River Basin to hazards, we can learn from communities who have successfully carried out effective river basin management systems.

The people of Sultan Kudarat learned their lesson well when they experienced major flash floods and massive soil erosion along the riverbanks, which displaced many communities, flooded farmlands and harmed livelihoods as torrential rains caused the thinning of the tree cover in the mountainous areas of the Allah Valley and the subsequent overflow of the Allah River.

Poor environmental management was the culprit, and their solution was to institutionalize watershed management through the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance, which performed flood hazard assessment, conducted massive education and information campaign, and mobilized private sector and communities in all aspects of watershed management including project planning and assessment, project site studies and observation, disaster management, forest and upland management, and river management.

A more comprehensive discussion of this best practice will be presented in one of our modules today.

We aim to promote the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local governance, and share best practices on successful collaboration among local executives and stakeholders towards effective river basin management.

Our objective is to turn every province, city and municipality disaster resilient; to enjoin citizens' participation; and to ensure that leaders pursue sustainable progress.

The Philippine legislature has taken a proactive stance in building the nation's resilience to disasters by passing the Climate Change Act of 2009 and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

The National Climate Change Action Plan and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan both will serve as blueprints in mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in the government's plans and programs, from the national down to the local level.

While significant achievements in policy formulation are evident, the challenge to sustain these gains and to do more does remain. The important starting point is political commitment, and our measure for success is more disaster-resilient development investments and, fundamentally, better and greater quality of life for our long-suffering people.

We must realize that hazards do not respect political boundaries. We cannot prevent floods from spilling over to the next town, and so we need to craft a synchronized land use plan to avoid one LGU putting in place a flood control project that would result in transfer of risks to its neighboring city. It is high time that national and local governments recognize the need for non-traditional land use planning approaches.[5]

Likewise, there is an urgent need for cooperative efforts in watershed or river-based planning and actions. I recently filed Senate Bill 3105 or the proposed "Philippine River Basin System Administration Act", which recommends a framework to establish a comprehensive river administration system for flood control, water use and environmental conservation.

We have to keep in mind that climate change adaptation is water adaptation. Implementing sustainable management of river basins builds the resilience of communities and the economy. This results from both effective water governance, which builds adaptive capacity that is vital to successful climate change adaptation, and well-functioning watersheds.

I believe that the greater challenge of translating policies and plans into concrete actions has brought us to assemble in this hall, fully aware of our capacity as leaders to protect our people and secure future generations.

Our actions should enable us to institutionalize a new brand of governance -- the kind of governance that ensures environmental, climate change and risk reduction laws and regulations are fully implemented.

Our actions should be able to engage all key stakeholders and sectors, to promote cooperation and coordination among themselves, to promote greater risk awareness in communities.

Our political will, clear understanding of risk, genuine regard for environmental protection and disaster prevention, preparedness for effective response, good governance, and our concern and vigilance --- all these will prevent natural hazards from turning into disasters.

In closing, let me reiterate that the best choice we have is to make our nation disaster-resilient to free us, once and for all, from the exhausting and costly cycle of rebuilding our communities every single time nature unleashes its wrath. The time to act is now.

We must ensure that in the years to come, families will need not leave their homes when natural hazards strike as they reside in safer communities; farmers and fishermen are assured of better yield; parents can send their children to school with the assurance that they are safe inside their classrooms; local development need not be stalled by massive destruction; and future generations can feel the warmth of nature and the abundance of our resources.

Closest to the people, local government leaders have the privilege to translate national policies, plans and programs into concrete and visible actions for the people. Much is expected from you by the people.

The people expect good governance. But let me assure you that governing with effective disaster risk reduction is certainly a mark of good local governance.

Now is the time to face bravely the many challenges ahead. Let this forum be our starting point for more meaningful action at the local level and a sustained collaboration among local governments and stakeholders of the Pampanga river basin.


[1] Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.
[3] Mapping Philippine Vulnerability to Environmental Disasters.
[4] DA Allots P331 M for Central Luzon Typhoon-Affected Farmers, Fishers. Department of Agriculture PR, 25 October 2011.

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