Thursday, 5 June 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, June 5, 2014

President Aquino calls on nations to work together in tackling effects of climate change

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday encouraged the participants of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management to continue working together to address the concerns posed by climate change.

Citing the country's experience on the devastation brought about by Typhoon Yolanda last year, President Aquino said in a speech during the conference that overcoming the challenges posed by climate risk is enormous and requires cooperation at all levels.

Citizens, local governments, and nations must work together to address this problem, he said, noting the importance of the disaster risk reduction meeting being held in Manila.

Countries must take advantage of every opportunity to share their experiences, ideas, and technologies, the value of which is not measured by any form of currency but by the number of lives saved, the President said.

"This is why I encourage all of you: Please, let us continue working together through forums such as this one, and let us deepen our cooperation to give rise to a world that is safer and more resilient," he said.

"This is our only planet, and it is our duty as its citizens to do everything in our power, not just to protect it, but to improve it and make it better than it ever has been."

The increasing number of typhoons and their devastating effects are becoming the norm today as a result of climate change, he said.

He further said that despite the magnitude of the effects of Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayan region, the Philippine government has received praises from international organizations.

For instance, World Bank Country Director for the Philippines Motoo Konishi said the Philippines' response to the disaster has “set a new standard on how to shrink the time between the disaster hitting, relief work being carried out, moving on to early recovery, and then to reconstruction,” he said.

President Aquino said his government has been harnessing the best technology, knowledge and inputs from other countries and organizations to rebuild better communities in the Visayan region. PND (as)

President Aquino meets with European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation

President Benigno S. Aquino III met with European Union (EU) Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva during a courtesy call at the South Ballroom of Diamond Hotel in Manila on Thursday.

The meeting occurred right before the opening plenary of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction Management, which the Philippines is hosting with the EU, Japan, and Switzerland as co-hosts.

President Aquino and the EU Commissioner shook hands and engaged in a brief yet fruitful discussion about disaster preparation, sharing their experiences when they each visited the province of Leyte in the aftermath of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan).

President Aquino mentioned some of the progress made by the national government in rebuilding the calamity-stricken communities, especially in areas that need particular improvements.

Commissioner Georgieva, for her part, suggested possible ways on how the EU and other developed nations could further work together with the Philippines to help address the increasing challenges of climate change to prevent the destruction caused by super typhoons from happening again.

She also recounted her experiences in Haiti following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010 and shared with the President some anecdotes regarding her recent trip to Tacloban City, taking note of the improvements made six months after the tragedy.

Georgieva said that despite the events that happened in the country, President Aquino is "very lucky" because the Philippines is rich with "talented people," particularly its children who are "smart."

President Aquino thanked the EU Commissioner for her positive thoughts about the Philippines and its people, and for her organization’s continuing assistance to the national government in its rehabilitation efforts.

He was joined by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. and Secretary Julia Abad of the Presidential Management Staff during the meeting.

The 60-year old Georgieva, a Bulgarian national, has been serving the EU as its Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid, and Crisis Response since February 2010 after her stint as Vice President and Corporate Secretary for the World Bank Group.

With the theme "Post-Haiyan (Yolanda)--A Way Forward", this year's ASEM Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management aims to build a stronger Asia-Europe partnership to meet the challenges of future mega disasters, such as Typhoon Yolanda, which barreled through Southern Luzon and Visayas in November 2013.PND (hdc)

Government again bothered by movement of Chinese ships in West Philippine Sea

President Benigno S. Aqunio III said Thursday his government is again bothered by the movement of Chinese ships in other areas of the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“We are again bothered that there seems to be developments in other areas within the disputed seas,” the President said during an interview with reporters after his speech at the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management at the Diamond Hotel.

“Among them, parang may movement ng ships in Gavin Reef and Cuateron (Calderon ) Reef,” he said, citing the latest report he has received.

“Yung pictures that I saw were just ships that can be used for reclamation. Pictures pa lang, unlike Mabini na talagang from nothing nagkaroon na ng geographical feature,” he said.

In mid-May, the Department of Defense confirmed that China was doing extensive reclamation work at the Mabini Reef, which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group in Philippine territory.

Last March 30, the Philippines filed a memorial at the International Tribunal of the Laws of the Sea (ITLOS) against China.

The International Arbitral Tribunal on June 4 gave China until December 15 of this year to comment on the case filed by the Philippines.

President Aquino said he is hopeful that the ITLOS will once and for all put an end to the dispute in the West Philippine Sea and resolve the matter peacefully.

“So, at the very least, ang makukuha natin diyan if they rule in our favor na tama ‘yung ating mga claims, then magkakaliwanagan: Ano ba talaga ang karapatan ng bawat isang estado at ano ang mga tungkulin ng bawat isa,” President Aquino explained. PND (ag)

President Aquino shares lessons learned from disasters

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday shared some of the lessons the country has learned from the natural calamities that have struck the nation.

Speaking before participants of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, President Aquino said the government has taken a proactive approach to reduce the risks posed by natural calamities.

He said an average of 20 storms hit the country every year. “But more recently, we have noticed that these storms have not only become more powerful; they have also begun shifting tracks, hitting areas that are not normally frequented by typhoons,” he said.

“From day one, we undertook the large-scale enhancement of our scientific capabilities,” the President said, citing the positioning of Doppler radars and the launch of Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards).

He said the government has begun mapping the topography of floodplains and river basins through Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology and preparing multi-hazard maps that identify areas prone to flooding, landslides, and tsunamis.

“We are also finding ways to make it easier for all Filipinos to act on the information made available to them. From previously just measuring wind strength alone to determine the intensity of storms, we now measure rain strength as well,” he said.

“These, among other initiatives, demonstrate our resolve to maximize the impact of technology on improving the resilience of our communities,” he said.

President Aquino however said that despite these efforts, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which struck the country in November last year, “was unlike anything we had previously encountered.”

“Some experts say that it was the most powerful storm to make landfall in recorded history. It certainly felt that way. Haiyan swept away many of the relief goods we had stockpiled. It affected millions of our countrymen, including some of the first responders who were supposed to give initial assistance to those affected,” he said.

The President also noted that Typhoon Haiyan came on the heels of several other natural and man-made disasters, such as the Zamboanga City siege and the Bohol earthquake.

With assistance from thousands of volunteers, various countries and international organizations, the communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan are now recovering, President Aquino said.

“Eventually, through the assistance of thousands of volunteers, as well as that of friends and partners around the globe, we were able to help bring the affected communities back on their own two feet, and are now helping them tread the path to recovery,” he said. PND (co)

European Union Commissioner expresses admiration for resilient Philippines

Having witnessed the destruction wrought by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) days after it hit Tacloban City last year, European Union (EU) Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid, and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva could express nothing but “huge admiration” for the strength and resilience displayed by the Philippines in dealing with disasters.

Commissioner Georgieva conveyed this personally to President Benigno S. Aquino III during the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management held Thursday at the Diamond Hotel in Manila, before hundreds of national and local government officials, leaders from the private sector, and representatives of regional and international organizations from 36 Asian and European countries.

“Mr. President, what you have achieved in these six months is remarkable and it is a lesson for all of us,” she said while acknowledging the fact that more needs to be done in rebuilding calamity-stricken communities.

The EU Commissioner has made two separate visits to Tacloban City—one immediately after Yolanda’s devastation and the other, last Wednesday—and she described her feelings as “terrifying” in the first experience and “having such a relief” in the second.

“I came immediately after Super Typhoon “Yolanda” hit and I was terrified by the devastation, by the houses destroyed, the livelihoods destroyed, the streets and roads mauled by debris, the line of body bags on the two sides of the main road. So when I came yesterday (Wednesday), it was such a relief, Mr. President, to see from the plane no trees but the shiny roofs of houses you built and to talk to people who have taken their lives back in their hands,” she said.

Georgieva noted that what happened in central Philippines last year is the primary reason behind the ASEM Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Manila as it is “critically important for the world to embrace this task of building resilient societies”.

Over the last three decades, the cost of damage caused by natural disasters has already quadrupled, she said, from an average of $50 billion a year during the 1980s to an average of $200 billion a year in the last 10 years.

Georgieva said this is a reminder that the threat of climate change in many countries will continue to increase and that nobody is immune from it; hence, everyone must do something to better prepare for future disasters.

“We can build preparedness and prevention in everything we do. No, we cannot stop disasters from happening, but we can prevent them… How can we do that? The number one priority in my view is to turn around a pyramid in our investments that is today upside down,” she said.

The EU commissioner said only four percent of the total spending related to disasters is spent on preparedness and prevention while 96 percent is allocated after a calamity strikes and it is about time to reverse this plan.

“Turning this pyramid of investments around would go a long way to have resilient societies and we know getting there is so clear that it makes financial economic sense. One peso, one euro, one dollar investment in prevention brings four to seven times savings in terms of reduction in damage,” she said.

She also emphasized that international cooperation is the only way forward to achieve this as “no country is rich enough on its own” to cope with a more difficult and fragile future, citing the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami as an example.

Georgieva presented five core principles that have to be integrated in the international cooperation: a good system of distributing the right information, having a strong focus on results, making sure that disaster risk reduction contributes to economic growth, focusing on the most vulnerable people, and taking the 2015 meeting in Sendai, Japan as a “huge chance to set the world on a more sustainable course.”

She said she is confident that the Tacloban Declaration that will be produced by the ASEM Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management by Friday, June 6, would fit right into the expected success of that meeting in Sendai on March 11 next year or in time for the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami’s fourth anniversary. PND (hdc)