The Secretary of the Philippine Government's Department of Science and Technology, Mario Montejo in discussion with UNISDR head, Margareta Wahlström
By Andy McElroy
MANILA, 3 March 2014 – The Philippines today launched a nationwide “Science for Safer Communities” so that more lives are saved through better early warning and understanding of disaster risk.
The Secretary of the Government’s Department of Science and Technology, Mario Montejo, said the initiative would ensure that “there are more disasters that do not happen.
‘’The role of science in reducing disaster risk is the good news story that is rarely told. We want such stories to occupy a greater amount of public space. We tend to hear only the bad news about what does not work,’’ Mr Montejo said.
The “Science for Safer Communities” campaign has four priorities: first, increase local knowledge of risk; second, strengthen the capacity of local government units to act; third, test and improve early warning systems; and fourth, build response capability based on hazard scenarios.
The Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, who is visiting the Philippines to promote consultations on a post-2015 international framework for disaster risk reduction, said the successor to the current Hyogo Framework for Action should include a much stronger role for science.
‘’Forty or so years ago science and technology opened the door on initial efforts to reduce disaster risk. Now, science can help us understand where we will be in another 40 years by providing evidence of the economic, social and environmental consequences if current trends continue,’’ Ms Wahlström said.
‘’Science can help provide practical and systematic evidence and only when we understand that disasters change people’s lives over years, and sometimes forever, will planning improve.’’
Assistant Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, Mr Raymund Liboro, said the Philippines is shifting to an approach to disaster risk management based on predictive rather than historical data.
‘’It will make us smarter, for instance, in prioritising the protection and rapid restoration of critical services,’’ Mr Liboro said.
UNISDR’s Head of Advocacy and Outreach, Jerry Velasquez said the Philippines is at the “cutting edge” of using science and related tools to reduce disaster risk.
‘’We were saying ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if evidence-based and systematic information was used to save lives’ and here it is. We need to build on this achievement and begin applying such tools to save property and protect economic assets,’’ Mr Velasquez said.