UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Office in Incheon for Northeast Asia and Global Education and Training Institute for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR ONEA-GETI)
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific (UNDRR AP)
By Andy McElroy
Manila – The head of one of the world’s leading property developers today called on business enterprises to take advantage of new market opportunities in products and services that address disaster risk reduction.
The President of SM Prime, Mr Hans Sy, told a forum of 60 Philippines private enterprises that forging mutually beneficial public-private partnerships was good for business, good for the community and good for national resilience.
“We need to bridge the gap in understanding and convince business owners of the need to move beyond basic continuity planning, and to consider the opportunity to create value in markets with products that address disaster risk and the important role of public-private sector partnership in disaster recovery,” Mr Sy told the Manila forum, titled “The Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction”.
“The impacts of disasters have become a growing concern not only with the government but especially for us in the private sector. We have all suffered from the devastating effects of disasters.”
The seminar was hosted at the SM Mall of Asia complex, which is built on reclaimed land on the Bay of Manila. The company estimates up to 30 per cent of the overall project budget was related to resilience measures. Since 2006, the site has survived intact 50 typhoons, four earthquakes and two floods from monsoon storms.
Mr Sy, who is a member of the Private Sector Advisory Group of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), said the country’s two major disasters of 2013 – the earthquake in Bohol and Typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) – had revealed both challenges and “great opportunities”.
“We have to address disaster assistance and mitigation issues in a holistic approach … It has become a business case for all of us. We in the private sector play an important role not only with our own businesses, but also with our partners, our employees and the communities we serve,” said Mr Sy.
The Executive Director of the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council of the Office of Civil Defence, Under-Secretary Alexander Pama, echoed Mr Sy’s call for stronger partnership between business and government on what he described as “the imperative of disaster risk reduction”.
“I reach out to you (the private sector) so that we strengthen our strategic convergence to mitigate the impacts of man-made and natural calamities. I am confident that the Philippines is about to turn the corner and that we will make our country, our people, indeed our whole nation more resilient to disasters,” Under-Secretary Pama said.
The Director of the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Mr Renato Solidum, gave a brief history lesson to remind business representatives of the value of stronger disaster risk management. He used the example of the Manila cathedral, built in 1571, which had suffered earthquake damage in the years 1600, 1645 and 1863.
Mr Solidum also recalled the 1968 Casiguran earthquake, which had a 7.3 magnitude and an epicenter 220km north-east of the capital, and caused the six-storey Ruby Tower building to collapse in Manila killing 268 people and injuring 260.
The forum attracted a range of private sector enterprises from local businesses to multinationals, from a variety of sectors that included power, utilities, retail, and construction. The seminar is being hosted by SM Prime and led by UNISDR’s Global Education Training Institute (GETI), based in Incheon, Republic of Korea, with the support of the International Recovery Platform.