February 9, 2012
Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas
Allow me to thank you for inviting me to deliver a message for this important assembly.
As national and local government leaders, we have the moral responsibility to usher and achieve genuine development for the country and our communities. But as leaders closest to the people, much is expected from barangay officials because you have a better understanding of the needs of your localities and the concerns of your citizens. You are in the best position to introduce and implement programs for community development.
Today, our leadership capabilities are being put to a bigger test as we face disasters made worse by the greatest humanitarian challenge of our times-- climate change. Evidently, climate change is not merely a scientific and environmental issue, but an all encompassing threat to our basic human rights - food, potable water, shelter, decent livelihood and life itself.
Still fresh from our memories is the wrath of Tropical Storm Sendong in parts of Visayas and Mindanao. This lamentable disaster caused the death of 1,268 individuals, affected more than one million persons, brought damages to infrastructure, agriculture and school buildings amounting to Php1.706-Billion, and damaged 52,435 houses mostly in Region 10 where the severely-hit cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are located.
A few days ago, our fellow citizens in the Visayas, particularly in Negros Oriental, experienced a 6.9-magnitude earthquake which killed at least 26 people, most of them were hit or pinned down by collapsed walls or debris of houses; while the 71 individuals who remain missing are believed to be victims of landslides in Barangay Planas in Guihulngan City and in Baranggay Solonggon, La Libertad both in Negros Oriental.
This recent disaster shows the need to double our efforts in making our communities disaster-resilient. It is our duty as leaders to ensure that critical infrastructure, especially schools and hospitals, are earthquake-proof through the conduct of a nationwide structural evaluation of all public and private infrastructure and by retrofitting the same to allow them to withstand strong temblors.
We have to realize that disaster risks are increasing exponentially. The fusion of socio-economic realities and extreme climatic events has confounded gallant attempts by governments. We cannot, however, be caught off-balanced and discouraged, and instead, try to match our best intentions with a resolve to scale up efforts in disaster risk reduction.
It is crucial that we tackle the drivers of our vulnerability to disasters and climate change--poor urban governance, vulnerable rural livelihoods and ecosystems decline.
We have to strengthen governance in urban centers. In simple and doable terms, this means implementing the solid waste management law. This means cleaning all clogged esteros, canals, and other waterways that exacerbate our vulnerability to flooding. This means dredging rivers that have become oversilted due to soil erosion brought about by excessive logging activities. This means making use of geo-hazard maps to avoid exposing our people, homes, and industries to disaster risks.
We have to protect our ecosystems. This involves protecting our forests, cleaning our rivers, and stopping pollution.
We have to enhance rural livelihoods. This means improving agricultural productivity and supporting our farmers better. This also means addressing the issues akin to rural poverty- such as inequity in land distribution, lack of access to better seeds and irrigation technology, the lack of economic diversification, weak markets and trade barriers, and the lack of capacity to absorb and to recover from disaster losses.
Climate change is a real-life and real-time crisis. As elected leaders we have a moral obligation to the people, a commitment to good governance that transcends political and territorial boundaries. The tasks before national and local leaders are straightforward: We have to make our communities safer, more resilient, and ever ready to act when disaster strikes.
To ensure that local leaders are at the forefront of climate adaptation initiatives, barangay officials are mandated to work with municipal and city governments in prioritizing concerns related to climate change and in identifying and implementing effective systems for climate adaptation and mitigation. This is stated under Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009.
And while we strive to make our communities disaster-resilient, we continue to facilitate better services for our people by empowering our barangay leaders through legislation, such as:
This measure also aims to (1) provide barangays with basic necessities such as regular supply of clean and potable water, public transportation, schools, health centers and barangay halls; (2) allow the automatic release of share from national taxes; and, (3) ensure that barangays have a share in taxes, fees and other charges, among others.
These laws only seek what is rightful and just to our barangay officials and to the communities where they serve. Through these measures, you will be better compensated, and hopefully, will be better motivated and continue to be proactive and productive leaders in the country. These proposed laws will also give what is due to every barangay to address the basic concerns of the community and to promote genuine development.
As we work on these measures in the Senate and continue to support our barangay leaders, I encourage all of you to translate national policies, plans and programs into concrete and visible actions for the people. These efforts will have to start at the barangay level and must be conveyed to your city or municipality officials.
My greater challenge for you is to take the initiative in making your communities disaster resilient through proactive measures, such as ensuring that your local development programs are climate-sensitive and responsive so that progress would not be hindered or stunted by a single extreme weather event.
The people expect good governance. But let me assure you that governing with effective disaster risk reduction is certainly a mark of good local governance.
We have to cut across political boundaries in order to do what is best for our people. We need to put together our political will and actions for safer schools and hospitals, for disaster-resilient barangays. We must all be one against risk.
Let it be said, that during our time, during our watch, we did our share. And maybe, just maybe, we will make a little difference.
 NDRRMC Update, SitRep No. 47, Effects of Tropical Storm Sendong as of 26 January 2012
 NDRRMC Update, SitRep No. 06, Effects of 6.9 Earthquake in Negros Oriental as of 08 February 2012, 8:00 am
Monday, March 2