Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP150507 - Remarks at the Australian Disaster Management Capability Forum

Remarks of Ambassador Bill Tweddell at the
Australian Disaster Management Capability Forum:
Luncheon Meeting with the Private Sector
7 May 2015, 12:30 pm
Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City

• Members of the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF) Board
• Mr Butch Meily, PRDF President
• Mr Bill Luz, PDRF Adviser and Private Sector Co-Chair of the National Competitiveness Council

It gives me great pride to welcome all of you to today’s Australian Disaster Management Capability Forum, the first of a series of learning sessions organised by the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF). I would like to thank the PDRF for working with the Australian Embassy to make this Forum possible.

[Disaster risk reduction and management as a shared agenda]
Australia is no stranger to natural disasters. We have our share of droughts, floods, bushfires and tropical cyclones. Just three weeks ago, New South Wales was hit by a powerful storm claiming lives, and causing severe flooding in Sydney and the regions of Hunter, Illawarra and Central Coast.

As a result, Australia has developed sophisticated preparation, mitigation, response and recovery capabilities that are recognised globally. The United Nations has described Australia as a world leader in disaster risk reduction and, in 2012, made Canberra a role model city in its global campaign on “Making Cities Resilient.”

As we all know, the Philippines is a disaster-prone country. The UN World Risk Index Report of 2014 ranks the Philippines as the second most disaster-prone country in the world next to Vanuatu. Comparing the populations of the Philippines (around 100 million) with Vanuatu (around 300,000), the Philippines could be considered the most disaster-prone country in the world in terms of numbers of people affected. And we also know that due to its location along the typhoon belt in the Pacific and the Ring of Fire, the country is hit by an average of 20 typhoons every year, and experiences its share of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. For the Philippines, it is not a matter of if a disaster will strike, but when it will strike.

[Mr Graeme Newton’s Visit]
The visit of our keynote speaker, Mr Graeme Newton (who comes from my home state Queensland – rightly known as beautiful one day, perfect the next!), to the Philippines was made possible through the joint efforts of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Trade Commission. He visited Tacloban City on Tuesday to see personally the progress of rehabilitation efforts after Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, met with local government officials, and visited recovery projects supported by the Australian Aid Program and the PDRF. Mr Newton also met with Philippine government officials involved in disaster risk reduction and management this morning.

Today, our speaker will share with you his insights into Australia’s experiences in implementing its post-disaster reconstruction programs.

Before that, allow me to share my thoughts on this agenda.

Disaster risk reduction and management is a responsibility not only of one sector or organisation. It is an agenda that should be taken on by everyone. Going beyond generating, and mobilising donations and resources to support relief and response efforts, there is greater potential for private sector engagement on this agenda.

• Governments and the private sector have an opportunity to work together towards building resilience of the business sector, and the larger community. To facilitate this, a clear framework for partnership and engagement between the government and private sector should be established. This forum can also be a launch pad to trigger wider discussions on how this objective can be pursued.

• Governments have clear mandates and responsibilities on this agenda, although sometimes their resources and capacities may need to be augmented. The private sector has resources and capacities that could strongly support the Government. The challenge is working together, coordinating and harmonising to optimise resources, and build on each other’s strengths, ensuring that efforts are not duplicated and competing, and parallel systems are avoided.

• The private sector could strongly support efforts where gaps exist and for which the private sector has strong competence, such as insurance and risk transfer mechanisms, value chain towards business and livelihood opportunities, and supporting “building back better” by funding reconstruction investments.

• The business community is significantly affected by disasters and would also benefit from understanding the risks so they are able to make informed decisions and implement investments to help limit losses, improve business continuity, reduce uncertainty, and identify new business opportunities.

Each one has a critical role to play in the whole disaster risk reduction and management cycle. We are here today because we are committed to help the Government and communities.

It is our desire that the insights and experience of our speaker will contribute to your thinking around a more coordinated and stronger partnership with the Government in post-disaster rehabilitation and recovery.

Good afternoon.