Philippines calls for 'focused international effort' to meet climate threats

Published: 10 June 2014 9:26 CET

By Alex Wynter and Donna Lagdameo, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

Opening the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines said it is now vital to mount “a focused international effort to address the threats posed by climate change, and to build communities that are resilient in the face of disaster.”

President Aquino described Typhoon Haiyan last year as unlike anything the country had previously encountered. “The Philippines sees some 20 storms a year. Not only have they become more powerful, they have also begun shifting tracks, hitting areas that are not normally frequented by typhoons,” he said.

Scientific capabilities

The government was now undertaking a large-scale enhancement of its scientific capabilities to meet the rising risks. It was deploying Doppler radar for better estimates of rainfall with incoming cyclones; early-warning systems in major river basins were being integrated as part of the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards project; hundreds of hydro meteorological gauges were being installed countrywide; and a new website was providing the public with real-time weather information.

“These efforts go hand in hand with training our personnel working with the local communities in the use and maintenance of these new technologies,” President Aquino said.

‘Predict, plan, prepare, practice’

The conference in Manila, which ended on Friday, was proposed by the Philippines at the ASEM summit in Laos in 2012. Richard Gordon, Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, who spoke at a conference working group, said a reinvented National Society was striving to face the new dangers.

“The Red Cross places particularly strong emphasis on climate change,” Mr. Gordon said. “We have volunteers on the ground in practically every school, every village, and every workplace. With climate change, we have to help our people identify what the hazards are – predict the dangers they face. The watchwords are: predict, plan, prepare, practice.”


The Manila conference – co-hosted by the Philippines, the European Union, Japan and Switzerland – re-lived Haiyan and its aftermath through detailed, and sometimes harrowing, eyewitness accounts from local government leaders and mayors from affected areas – including the coastal city of Tacloban, in Leyte province, the disaster’s epicenter.

The initial plenary session also heard opening statements from, among others, the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert del Rosario; Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response; and Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The conference concluded with a “Post-Haiyan Tacloban Declaration”, adopted by consensus, affirming the central role in disaster risk reduction and management of national governments.

Among the five-page document’s references to climate is a call for support for “the incorporation ofdisaster risk reduction and management and climate change in the post- 2015 development agenda.”

The European Commission this week said it would provide a further €30m in aid for Haiyan-affected communities, centered on health services and reconstruction.

Last month the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Philippine Red Cross jointly announced a 320 million Swiss franc, three-year recovery plan to help people rebuild their lives and enhance the capacity of the Philippine Red Cross through the training for volunteers and strengthening its expertise in risk reduction and disaster management.