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21 May 2014 - About seven months after super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) left a trail of devastation in its wake, the Philippines will host the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management from June 4 to 6 with around 150 senior government officials, scientists, academics, policymakers, industry and business leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and representatives of regional and international organizations from Asia and Europe gathering in Manila to discuss how best to handle future mega-disasters.

 

Dubbed “The ASEM Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management: Post Haiyan- A Way Forward,” the conference is a Philippine initiative adopted by 49 Heads of States and Governments, the Presidents of the European Union (EU) and the Secretary General of the ASEAN Secretariat comprising ASEM.

 

Conference chairperson Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, said that the international gathering will engage in earnest discussions and lively debates on whether current international practices and principles still hold in light of the Philippine experience with Yolanda.  The ASEM Manila Conference will see senior representatives from national and local governments, international and regional organizations, humanitarian assistance organizations, NGOs and leading figures in the private sector reflect on their roles in the prevention of and response to disasters, as well as their contribution to recovery and rehabilitation efforts. A sharing of best practices, innovation and technology for disaster risk reduction and management, as well as how best to reconstruct and rehabilitate devastated areas will also be themes for discussion in the four working groups of the ASEM Conference that will be chaired by the EU, the Philippines, Switzerland, and Japan. 

 

EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Kristalina Georgieva and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlstrom will join Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and other cabinet officials in making plenary statements during the ASEM Manila Conference.

 

Before the plenary conference in Manila on June 5,  ASEM delegates will visit Leyte Province where they will meet Governor Dominic Petilla and Mayors Pelagio Tecson, Jr. of Tanauan, Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban and Remedios Petilla of Palo, and NGO leaders to discuss their experiences during the super typhoon and residual challenges and opportunities.  The delegates will also visit Bislig Elementary School in Tanauan and participate in the ground-breaking ceremony of an ASEM computer classroom. From Tanauan, the delegates will visit Barangay Pago, site of a resettlement project for some 40 displaced families.

 

The ASEM Manila Conference is being held at a crucial time when the decade-old Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) adopted by the world community as the global paradigm on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) is about to end in 2015. The Philippines aims to contribute to the new global architecture on DRRM with the ASEM Manila Conference document to be called “The Tacloban Declaration” which will embody new policies and principles for DRRM.

 

The DFA is the lead coordinator for the conference in partnership with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) of the Department of National Defense. The OCD is the Secretariat of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. END

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