Legarda: Let’s Aim to Mitigate Disasters in 2012

Recalling the impact of disasters in 2011 that could have been mitigated, Senator Loren Legarda, the UN Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia Pacific, today called on the government to aim for a disaster-resilient nation.

Legarda said the occurrence of natural hazards is inevitable, but 2011 was marked by several disasters as necessary preparedness and mitigation efforts were not in place, which could have avoided turning natural hazards into catastrophes.

Among the devastating disasters in 2011 include: the floods and landslides in Caraga, Bicol and Eastern Visayas Regions that welcomed the year; the Davao City flashfloods in June; the Irisan trash slide in Baguio City; typhoons Pedring and Quiel that killed more than 100 people and caused massive flooding in the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan; and tropical storm Sendong whose victims are still reeling from the tragedy.

“We can no longer stall the prioritization of DRR and climate change adaptation in the national and local level. We need this to achieve significant gains in reducing our vulnerability to hazards,” Legarda said.

“We must learn from the lessons of 2011, in fact, we should already have learned from the lessons of the previous years because the disasters of 2011 were not new—Irisan trashlide was like the Payatas tragedy, Sendong was like Ondoy, and the massive floods we have always experienced because we have not heeded the lessons of the past,” she added.

Legarda stressed that both the national government and the LGUs must think long-term and do more for improved urban planning and disaster mitigation.

She explained that the quality of scientific data available to government agencies and LGUs for predicting and forecasting disasters requires urgent improvement.

Furthermore, local governments must be in the frontline in confronting the worsening flooding problem in the country. To do this, LGUs must update their data on flood hazards and vulnerabilities, develop their information base on flood losses, invest in flood protection and mitigation, identify safe land for low-income families and implement the solid waste management law at full speed.

The Senator also said that all critical infrastructure, especially schools and hospitals, must be earthquake-proof through the conduct of a nationwide structural evaluation of all schools and hospitals and by retrofitting these structures to allow them to withstand strong temblors, noting the destructive quakes that hit several countries such as Japan, Turkey, New Zealand, and Myanmar this year.

“It is the mandate of the government to protect the country and its citizens, and as elected leaders of this nation, we have to ensure that our people feel secure when they sleep at night; they need to feel safe when they go to work; or even in just simply living their lives amidst threats of disasters. We must not forget the lessons brought by the disasters that hit our country even after we have done coping with the effects, so that when the next hazard strikes, we will be better prepared to meet the challenges head on,” Legarda concluded.***