Senator Loren Legarda stressed the need to ensure that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is resilient as an institution so that it does not only respond to disasters but also help build resilient communities.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Climate Change and Finance, made the statement during the hearing on her proposed Senate Resolution No. 449, which aims to look into the climate-related risks and capacity challenges that impact on the AFP’s ability to respond to non-traditional forms of threats.
“I initiated this inquiry, knowing fully well that our changing climate has massive national security implications on the AFP’s operations, installations, personnel, and its missions,” said the veteran lawmaker.
“As first responders in times of disasters, the AFP has to be a resilient institution – ready and capable to perform its role, not just in times of disasters, but to help build resilient communities. We cannot count on the AFP to be effective in its mission unless it is, on its own, a resilient institution,” the seasoned lawmaker added.
Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), admitted that even with the enactment of the NDRRM Law, DRR has not been fully mainstreamed in the operations of the AFP because the focus remains on response capability building.
He said that for DRR and climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM) to be mainstreamed in the AFP, these should be incorporated in the Defense Planning Guidance, which is the basis of the AFP in the programming of its budget.
“If we say that the AFP is still a mere responder, it means that the NDRRM Law has not yet served its purpose of mainstreaming DRR and CCAM in all institutions and agencies of government, including the AFP. There is a need to review the NDRRM Law and ensure that it is attuned to the Sendai Framework for DRR, as well as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG),” said the lady senator.
She said there is much to be done in making the AFP’s properties and equipment resilient and she shared adaptation measures that the military can do in their camps, within their communities, and in their own homes.
Examples of adaptation measures include multi-hazard early warning systems; putting up rainwater harvesters, seed banks, and rooftop gardens; building roadside ditches and seawalls; reforesting mangroves; utilizing indigenous knowledge on disaster resilience; and undertaking regular drills for disaster preparedness.
“Our military must be resilient because you yourselves must survive to save lives; you cannot be effective first responders if you yourselves are victims. AFP’s disaster resilience as an institution needs to be guaranteed so that it may effectively discharge its expanded roles in the face of climate impacts and increasing disaster risks,” said Legarda.
Among the recommendations during the hearing are promoting peer-to-peer learning among AFP officials and personnel on DRR and CCAM good practices in camps; building capacity for DRR and CCAM from the current competencies and strengths of the AFP and its reservists; and making AFP defense planning and budgeting sensitive to disaster and climate risks.