Mindanao Forum: Climate Change Adaptation
'The Role of PA3i & Partners in Mitigating and Preparing for Its Dire & Threatening Impact'
Remarks by Ambassador Rod Smith
28 May 2010
Thank you very much for your invitation to this event, on a very important and topical issue: Climate Change Adaptation. I am very pleased to be here today on behalf of the Australian government, recognising the strong partnership that has developed between the Australian Embassy and the Philippines Australia Alumni Association (PA3i) over many years.
May I also thank Governor Romualdo of Camiguin for his support for this forum on climate change organised by PA3i.
This is my first trip to Camiguin. Yesterday I arrived in this beautiful Province of Camiguin to inaugurate the Gabaldon Heritage School building at Kuguita Elementary School, which was part of a heritage conservation project funded by the Australian Aid Program in partnership with Streetwise Fund Asia and the Department of Education. Having visited even a small part of the island of Camiguin, I can say it indeed lives up to its reputation as a natural paradise - something we are all keen to protect and preserve, even more so under the stress of the potential effects of climate change on the natural environment.
So I want to talk to you this morning about Australia’s support to climate change adaptation initiatives.
The Australian Government has been at the forefront of international efforts in sustainable resource management, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction for many years.
Australia recognises that the poorest people are often the most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental degradation, and that climate change now threatens to exacerbate these problems and set back progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
As Australia’s Ambassador, I am proud that achieving environmental sustainability, one of the Millennium Development Goals, is a key theme of the Australian Aid Program.
Australia has committed significant resources to combat the effect of climate change, globally and in our region. The Government’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol – the first act of the Rudd Labor Government - demonstrated its commitment to participating fully in international efforts to address the issue of global warming.
We are working closely with other donors, international organisations and developing country partners, including the Philippines, to identify needs and effective responses in the areas of adaptation, technology cooperation, and deforestation. The Australian government is contributing more than $500 million to various international processes to help shape a global solution.
Australia recognises in particular that the Philippines faces ongoing threats from natural hazards, some of which could be further aggravated by climate change impacts.
• 20 typhoons reach the Philippines each year, about 5 of which wreak havoc as they move across the archipelago, as we saw so graphically last year with Ondoy and Pepeng, and the year before with Frank
• Not climate related, but Philippines also faces threat from earthquakes with over five earth tremors every day, which also has to be taken into account in disaster prevention and preparedness strategies
Last year the Australian government launched a new Disaster Risk Reduction policy for development cooperation which recognised the Philippines – along with Indonesia – as two priority countries for support. The policy starts from the premise that, while natural disasters cannot be prevented, we can reduce the potential of damage and economic devastation by becoming more aware of hazards and working to reduce the impacts on vulnerable communities.
In fact since 2006, Australia has been assisting the Philippines in providing emergency assistance to respond to the effects of these natural hazards. To assist further in managing natural disasters, focusing on climate change impact, the Australian Government Aid Program is providing about 300 million pesos (A$8.7m) for a number of disaster risk reduction initiatives. For example:
• We are working with national Philippines agencies to improve the lack of fundamental data on hazards and risk in the Philippines by supporting hazard mapping and climate change vulnerability modelling, and rapid earthquake damage assessment;
• Working through our partnership with the Philippines National Red Cross (Myra knows this very well), we are integrating disaster risk management and climate change adaptation into local development planning processes; and
• We are providing technical support from Geosciences Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology to various Philippine agencies.
This forum today will contribute to our understanding of the local issues around climate change impact and adaptation.
Beginning in January 2011, the Australian Aid Program will provide Australia Award scholarships to our partner Philippine Government agencies which are mandated to address environment and climate change issues.
As all of you know, the Australian Government attaches great importance to the scholarships and training we provide all over the world. The Australia Awards Scholarship Program announced by Prime Minister Rudd last year marks a further stepping up of this program.
We see the returned scholars as important ambassadors of good will, as your experiences as Filipino students in Australia give you a valuable understanding of both our countries. Over time, the Australia Awards scholarships will continue to build a cadre of leaders across Asia and the Pacific with strong and enduring ties to Australia and its people. Filipinos will continue to be among our future Australia Award recipients given the high quality of potential candidates here and the importance of both countries to each other as neighbours, friends and partners in many common endeavours.
Here in the Philippines, we have seen many of our alumni using their knowledge and experience on return from study - working to positively influence change.
Those of you who have been provided local training through HRDF are equally important as you complement the scholarship awardees in their areas of expertise.
I congratulate the PA3i in Northern Mindanao, one of the most active chapters of the network, for organising this climate change summit and bringing together experts to enable the region to formulate local adaptation and mitigation measures. It is a very good example of what the alumni can do to contribute to development in the Philippines.
Together with you, our partners in the Philippines, Australia will continue to support climate change adaptation efforts. We believe that with the collaborative effort of government, the private sector and civil society much can be done to minimise the impact of natural hazards before they occur. I commend the efforts of the PA3i in forging partnerships to address these issues of such vital importance to all of us. Forums such as today’s play an important role, addressing the lack of information about the hazards facing the Philippines.
Allow me to thank once again the Philippines Australia Alumni Network-Northern Mindanao Chapter, and the support of the Local Government of Camiguin, Governor Romualdez, for taking such affirmative action in “thinking global and acting local” to raise awareness on the impacts of climate change.
I encourage PA3i to maintain your high levels of energy and commitment, to endeavour to attract even more members, and work harder to retain them as active and committed contributors to the network.
I wish you success into the future as you continue to collaborate and work together to make a difference.
Maraming Salamat and Mabuhay.