UNISDR chief arrives in Philippines for five-day visit

 
By Brigitte Leoni

BANGKOK, 30 April 2012 - Top UN disaster risk reduction official, Margareta Wahlström arrives in Manila Philippines tomorrow for five-day visit during which she will meet with donors, the private sector, mayors and government officials to further push for more concrete disaster reduction actions to protect more communities and assets from future disasters.

Wahlström, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction was last in Philippines in January when she visited Mindanao region which was ravaged by Typhoon Sendong.

On 2 May Wahlström will attend the annual meeting of the Asia Development Bank (ADB) in Manila where she will facilitate the seminar Vulnerable cities: Waking up to the need for urban disaster risk management.

"Reducing urban disaster risk is the only way to secure development gains and reduce high levels of deaths, livelihood deprivation and maintain our economies in the future", stated Wahlström.

The seminar will discuss a systematic approach to urban disaster risk management as urban risk has become an increasingly important development issue and particularly so in the Asia Pacific context where specific factors that influence urban risk such as planning and control of urban development, land use patterns, quality of construction, design practices, and building codes are not well established.

The seminar will discuss ways to build resilient local government units which can integrate community participation into decision making, improve construction practices and funding, and better prepare communities for climate change impacts. Among the key issues in front of the participants is recognition that governments are not fully accounting for the disaster risk that they face or managing the attendant liabilities.

While in Manila, Wahlström will also meet with private sector companies based in Metro Manila and promote the development of business continuity plans (BCPs) to secure business as usual when disasters happen. Metro Manila is highly vulnerable to cyclones, floods and earthquakes and UNISDR hopes to encourage business partners to integrate disaster risks in their business prevention plans.

So far only Japanese and American companies have invested significantly in BCPs and developed a simplified set of guidelines and training materials to help small and medium sized industries to implement them. The movement has been slower in middle income countries but countries such as Thailand are already thinking about BCPs after the 2011 floods which put more than 700,000 people out of work.

On 4 May, Wahlström heads out to Albay province which has already implemented many successful disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures. There, she will meet with more than 30 mayors and governors from different parts of the Philippines to discuss concrete DRR measures to protect communities against disasters and find solutions to help the recovery process in Mindanao's Sendong affected communities.

"My mission is a direct follow up of my last visit in January and responds to requests from Mayors who then asked me to facilitate discussions and share good practices that could strengthen the resilience of their cities and communities", stated Wahlström.

"Peer learning is a practical way that serves the most needed. My trip to the Philippines is extremely important and I am very encouraged by the work that will be done during the coming five days. The Philippines has always been very advanced in disaster risk reduction and what will happen in Albay and Manila will serve as true examples for the rest of the world,” she added.

Metro Manila with more than 25.5 million people is the most populous of the twelve defined metropolitan areas in the Philippines and the 11th most populous in the world.

Land is still a major issue in the affected Mindanao areas where more than 200,000 people are still living under tents three months after Sendong cyclone hit the affected area.

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to natural hazards and ranks sixth among the world countries most vulnerable to climate change, according to a recent ADB report. Earthquakes are also one of the major threats.

From 1970 to 2009, typhoons caused the largest number of deaths (more than 31,000), affected the largest population (111 million) and caused the highest economic loss ($6.72 billion). Storms caused an annual economic loss of $151 million followed by floods ($69 million), earthquakes ($33 million) and drought ($14 million).

The United Nations General Assembly requested UNISDR to facilitate the development of a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction The United Nations General Assembly requested UNISDR to facilitate the development of a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.
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