Press Release
February 18, 2012

Opening Remarks
Mindanao Summit on Disaster Risk Reduction and Geo-Hazard Awareness

Friends, ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning to all of you.

Times must have really changed.

Nagbago na yata talaga ang panahon.

Why do I say so? The reason is simple. Times must have really changed because we, Mindanaoans, are gathered today to talk about mitigating the effects of disasters and calamities, whether caused by nature's wrath or by man's mismanagement of the environment.

Times must have really changed. Just a few years back, we were more busy with other issues. Issues like, development. Peace and order. Autonomy. Or partnerships with the Asean nations south of our region.

Times must have really changed. Just a few years back, we would still hear fellow Mindanaoans boast that - and I quote - "the climate is the least of our concern; hardly any major typhoon passes by most of our key cities".

And they were right. We had near-perfect climate and the passing-by of major typhoons were considered more as "fluke of nature" rather than common occurrence.

But in the aftermath of Sendong, we all finally had to face a difficult reality - the reality that, indeed, times have changed. And with it, Climate changed, too.

For the next two days, you and I will listen to experts expound on the subject matter of Climate Change and its implication on our region. But that is only half of the business agenda.

It would be useless of we stop at merely talking about Climate Change.

There is another important agenda. And that agenda item is called ... Attitude Change.

Nagbababago ang panahon. Nagbabago ang klima. Kailangang magbago din ang ating pag-iisip at pananaw sa mundo at sa buhay.

My friends, my fellow Mindanaoans:

Here is the good news. The fact that you are here, investing your precious time and energies, show two very important things.

First, this is evidence that you are aware of and appreciate the dire consequences that Climate Change has exacted from our beloved region.

Two, this is proof that our attitudes are changing - we are no longer taking things for granted. We are ready to take the bull by the horn. We are ready to talk about the subject matter seriously and to act on solutions quickly and decisively.

Let me propose some items that which we must include in the discussions over the next two days. Their nature is "urgent".

Item one: our state of readiness to respond and to rebuild.

Item two: our exercise of transparency and accountability even in the midst of massive reconstruction.

Item three: our sense of unity in the face of the challenges that come with major disasters.

Let me go back to the first: our state of readiness. Here are a some points for our reflection. One: do we have a template for an effective post-disaster needs assessment that have been crafted based on past disaster-related experiences? Two: if there are already templates and proven methods that we can adopt and use, do they employ community-based, people-centered and equitable approaches.

Second item: the exercise of transparency and accountability. Questions: are systems and mechanisms in place to ensure that financial, material and human resources are used in the relief and reconstruction efforts according to the purpose and manner for which they were intended?

Are systems in place to monitor and evaluate the results of the use of reconstruction resources?

Are there mechanisms to ensure that resources coming from international development and donor organizations are utilized with full transparency and accountability?

Let me now go to the third item: our sense of unity in the face of the new challenges confronting the Mindanao community. Questions: given the new challenges we face, are the people of Mindanao, more than ever, ready to give up their differences so they can unite behind the rebuilding process? Set aside political differences? Religious differences? Ethnic and language differences? Ideological differences?

Can we honestly tell ourselves that these differences may have now become less significant in the face of the huge tasks ahead of us? And that we must now join hands for a mission bigger than all of our parochial concerns?

Times have changed. The Climate has changed. Shall our attitudes, viewpoints, hearts and minds adapt to the change?

I pray that these important questions shall be answered in this Summit.

In the course of this two-day Summit, let us all keep fresh in minds the images of the recent events that visited this beautiful city of Cagayan de Oro - of this city of golden friendship that was devastated by a typhoon whose might may have been underestimated.

May the faces of the victim of this calamity remind us that our mission here is a matter of life and death, a matter of great urgency.

At this point, I thank you all for coming here today. I thank our partners in the private sector, in the nongovernmental organization sector and in the international community.

We have all come here in search for answers. Your presence here is the first vital, indispensable step to the discovery of those answers.

I wish you all a productive conference.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

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