Welcome Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
PACAP Knowledge Sharing Conference on Community-Based Disaster Preparedness
Pan Pacific Hotel, Malate, Manila
27 February 2014
The Honourable Mar Roxas, Secretary of Interior and Local Government
General Juanito Dalmas, Chief of the Training Division, Office of Civil Defense
Dr Steve Rood, Country Representative, The Asia Foundation
Our partners from Government and civil society
Ladies and Gentlemen
Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat. It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program (PACAP) Knowledge Sharing Conference on Community-Based Disaster Preparedness.
Last year was, by any standards, a tough year for the Philippines, as it faced numerous natural disasters, including Typhoon Yolanda, the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in history. As this audience knows, close to 14 million Filipinos from the Visayas region were affected by the super typhoon.
Typhoon Yolanda was a big blow to a country already struggling with the impact of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that crippled neighbouring provinces Bohol and Cebu just three weeks earlier, and all that on top of the humanitarian crisis in Zamboanga City.
I am proud to say that Australia has always stood by the Philippines in times of need. This is a commitment which was reaffirmed by our Foreign Minister, The Hon Julie Bishop MP, in a visit to the Philippines last week (with Trade and Investment Minister, The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, for talks with their counterparts) and in her visit to the Philippines in December, during which she visited Tacloban and Ormoc to see how Australia was helping on the ground and to assess future needs.
In response to natural disasters, since 2006 Australia has provided over 78 million Australian dollars in humanitarian and emergency assistance to the Philippines.
Our contribution to the Yolanda relief effort amounted to over 100 million dollars. Our package of assistance includes funding to government agencies, local government, Australian and local NGOs, UN agencies, and the Australian Red Cross to provide relief goods, water, hygiene kits, and shelter to victims.
We also deployed Australian humanitarian workers, including a medical assistance team to provide critical medical care in the aftermath of the disaster. We assigned our defence assets, ships and planes, to transport relief goods and personnel to the disaster zone and to evacuate victims to safer places.
We continue to assist the Philippines in post-disaster reconstruction and recovery through various ways, including our small grants program for local civil society organisations, Philippines-Australia Community Assistance Program (PACAP).
Through PACAP, the Australian Government is providing 5 million dollars for activities benefitting communities affected by the earthquake and Typhoon Yolanda.
But the nation’s recovery does not only depend on how it responds after a calamity. It is important to build resistance and enhance resilience to natural disasters. We need to pay attention to how we prepare for the next typhoon, earthquake, landslide, flood, storm surge, or other natural hazards.
So Australia also assists the Philippine Government in the long-term issue of boosting disaster preparedness. In this area, most notable is our support to the Climate Change Commission in partnership with the United Nations Development Program. Project Climate Twin Phoenix, as we call it, aims to strengthen stakeholders’ institutional capacity on disaster risk management and put in place institutional networks to deal with increasing natural risks in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, two of the cities worst affected by Typhoons Sendong and Pablo in 2011 and 2012.
We are expanding the project to cities and municipalities affected by Yolanda in the Visayas.
PACAP has also supported civil society organisations working on community-based disaster preparedness projects. Today, eight of these organisations will share their experiences and good practices on the ground. They will inform our understanding of disaster preparedness as it is done in communities across the country.
This is an opportune time to come together and reflect on the role of civil society in preparing for disasters. We hold this learning conference on the heels of the 28th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, an historic event for Filipino civil society.
It is especially important for PACAP to commemorate the peaceful revolution that marked its beginning. The program was Australia’s immediate response to the call of the Cory Aquino government to encourage non-government and people’s organisations to participate once again in the democratic process and help government deliver much needed basic services to poor communities nationwide.
Australia’s continued regard for the dynamism and work of Filipino civil society to make a positive change is still evident today, 28 years later. We carry on our commitment and support President Noynoy Aquino’s distinctive path of engaging civil society to help in the recovery and reconstruction effort in Eastern Visayas and in furthering economic development in the rest of the country.
We look forward to many more years of partnership with government and civil society not only in disaster preparedness and disaster risk management but in other sectors as well.
Thank you and mabuhay!