Clean up drive on the anniversary of Ondoy: “Community effort is key to disaster risk reduction” - Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell
On the third anniversary of Typhoon Ondoy, some 200 volunteers converged today in Barangay Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City, to participate in Clean Up the World (CUW) 2012.
Volunteers from Australian organizations and the Australian Embassy, led by Ambassador Bill Tweddell, partnered with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), led by General Manager Corazon Jimenez, and the local government and residents of Pasig, led by City Mayor Robert Eusebio and Barangay Pinagbuhatan Chairman Monica Asilo. They were supplemented by volunteers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Manila Water Company.
Pinagbuhatan, one of the 17 priority communities under the MMDA’s “Barangay Power 2012” clean-up initiative, is among the communities identified as most vulnerable to flooding and other climate impacts that are exacerbated by developmental challenges, such as environmental and waste management. It was severely affected by flooding brought by Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 and recent torrential rains, such as in August and September this year, continue to leave the community almost constantly inundated.
In 2009, Australia was among the first to respond to the Ondoy relief effort with PHP484Million in assistance. Last month, as intense monsoon rains compounded by habagat winds pounded Luzon, Australia was once again among the first to offer assistance, with PHP88Million in food and emergency supplies delivered through the Philippine Red Cross and the United Nations World Food Programme.
“In the year since Ondoy struck, Australia has expanded its assistance to the Philippines Government and other partners to ensure that the country is better prepared to manage and respond to future disasters and emergencies, and that disaster risk reduction initiatives will be effective in saving lives and property. While we cannot stop typhoons or floods from hitting Metro Manila, communities can be better prepared and build up their resilience. The key to disaster risk reduction is, of course, community effort and empowerment,” said Ambassador Tweddell.
Australia is deepening its commitment to disaster risk management in the Philippines through a new program, called BRACE (Building the Resilience and Awareness of Metro Manila Communities to Natural Disasters and Climate Change Impacts). BRACE will help urban poor communities “brace” for the impact of natural calamities. BRACE will demonstrate effective approaches to community based disaster risk management, including safer in-city housing and training communities to prepare for disasters.
“Our support to Clean Up the World complements what we aim to do through AusAID’s BRACE program – to support Filipinos to take action in their local communities to protect and preserve their environment to help reduce vulnerabilities to natural disasters,” Ambassador Tweddell added.
MMDA has been tapped through Chairman Francis Tolentino to be part of the BRACE Policy Advisory Board (along with the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and the National Economic and Development Authority), which will guide the BRACE program and promote linkages among the local government units, including Pasig City.
Australian Embassies around the world annually organize volunteer activities in support of Clean Up the World, an environmental campaign that inspires and empowers an estimated 35 million people from 130 countries to clean up, fix and conserve their environment through community-based activities. Initiated by prominent Australian yachtsman and builder Ian Kiernan in 1993, CUW has since grown to become a successful worldwide campaign supported by the United Nations Environment Programme and by the Australian Government.
“The diversity of participation in this clean-up activity demonstrates that success in disaster risk reduction and the full development of Metro Manila can be achieved through concerted, organized positive efforts that are grown into habits. Government, civil society and industry can contribute a lot. But also, the community itself has to be at the centre of the action and take ownership,” said MMDA GM Jimenez.
“The support of Australia, in this case, shows that there are many levels of community: Pasig is a community, Metro Manila is a community, Australia and the Philippines are close neighbours in the Asia Pacific community. We can succeed -- see our community grow and prosper, and our world become more sustainable -- if only we work together,” said Mayor Eusebio.
Australia is supporting MMDA in the preparation of a development vision for Metro Manila through the Green Print 2030 project, which includes integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in land use plans.