The Philippines is urging its fellow member-states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to build a region-wide database on disaster risk management to facilitate the sharing of information on mitigating the effects of climate change and ensure timely cooperation among them in the face of calamities.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that despite “existing capacity constraints,” the Philippines is now spearheading this initiative by sharing information with its private sector to enable better coordination in times of disasters and other emergencies.
Dominguez issued this urgent call after he and his fellow finance ministers and the central bank governors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) underscored the importance of strengthening their respective countries’ resilience against natural disasters during their recent joint meeting in Singapore.
In their Joint Statement issued after their meeting, the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors said the resilience of the ASEAN member-states against natural disasters “is important for sustaining growth as well as protecting our people’s well-being.”
“We note the ongoing ASEAN Disaster Financing and Insurance (ADRFI) initiatives to enhance the region’s capacity to adopt and implement ex-ante and ex-post disaster risk management measures. Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are working together to launch the Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility (SEADRIF) as a disaster risk management solution for the region,” a portion of the Joint Statement of the 4thASEAN Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting states.
Aware of the irreversible damage wrought by the now-erratic weather patterns, Dominguez said the Philippine government is carrying out its disaster risk management measures with a “sense of urgency” to best safeguard the country’s vulnerable communities against climate change.
“Within the existing capacity constraints, we are building databases and constantly improving on the quality and amount of data available to identify vulnerabilities and manage risks,” Dominguez said.
“This is a continuing effort,” Dominguez noted. “Down the road, we are encouraging our partners in the ASEAN to participate in building a region-wide database for disaster risk management and possibly institutional structures that will enable timely cooperation in the face of calamities.”
Aside from setting up a disaster risk management database that also involves digitizing government assets and infrastructure, the Philippines is also pushing legislation that will institutionalize disaster risk financing strategies such as reinsurance and government-sponsored risk pools to enable communities to swiftly get back on their feet in the event of calamities, Dominguez said.
Pilot studies for a parametric insurance scheme covering the country’s most vulnerable local government units (LGUs) are now being undertaken, he added.
The Philippines also enacted a law two years ago called the Green Jobs Act (Republic Act 10771), which provides government incentives for the creation of “green” or environment-friendly jobs, such as those that help preserve the quality of the environment, decarbonize the economy, protect ecosystems, reduce pollution and restore biodiversity, Dominguez said.
Dominguez, who was environment minister during the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino, said the incentives being considered to encourage the creation of “green” jobs include tax deductions and the exemption of capital equipment from customs duties.
“Programs such as this one support the general effort to encourage our enterprises to adopt sustainable business practices,” Dominguez said. “When they comply with benchmarks set for sustainability, businesses qualify for insurable risks. Such incentives will go a long way towards building a more environmentally sensitive national economy.”
Dominguez said that as stated in the Joint Statement of the 4thASEAN Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting, the regional bloc has already initiated a program to coordinate the sharing of disaster risk financing, with its first phase completed in June last year.
This region wide disaster risk insurance facility, with funding support from the German development institutions GIZ and KfW, is “a pioneering ASEAN project that could be adopted in other parts of the world,” Dominguez said.
“The countries of this region are stepping up to the challenges facing us today. The ASEAN itself has become a mechanism for disaster risk mitigation on a broader level. This is as it should be,” he noted.
In the Philippines, Dominguez said its people have long realized the severe threats and devastating impact brought about by climate change, as evidenced by the government’s continued efforts to rebuild communities in the Visayas devastated by killer typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) almost five years ago.
“Typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions take a toll on our communities and on our economy. We are spending billions of pesos flood-proofing our most vulnerable areas in the face of more torrential rains. Building for a sustainable and resilient development is more than just an option for us. It is the only way to go,” he said.
“Although we can never be fully protected from natural catastrophes, there are many ways to reduce risks and improve resilience. In the wake of several severe calamities the past few years, reducing risks and building better is understandably a national preoccupation,” Dominguez added.