Published: 22 August 2023
Your Excellency Iwona Piorko, European Union Ambassador to Singapore,
Heads of the National Disaster Management Organisations and ASEAN Member States,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning.
2. This morning, we open the ASEAN Disaster Management Week (ADMW).
ASEAN’s Achievements in Disaster Management
3. First, let me congratulate the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), on your 20th anniversary this year.
Improved Disaster Response Capabilities
4. Looking back over the last 20 years, one of the key achievements of the ACDM has been the development of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response Work Programmes in 2010, and it has been renewed every five years.
5. Many activities have been carried out under these Programmes.
6. For example, we developed the ASEAN Regional Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Guidelines.
7. These Guidelines have been translated into seven ASEAN languages, and provide directions on how to identify hazards, how to conduct risk assessment, and of course, quite importantly, how to develop strategies to mitigate the risks that you have identified.
8. Today’s gathering and the events this week are also evidence of how the Work Programmes have facilitated exchanges and encouraged cooperation in disaster management within ASEAN.
9. Another key achievement of the ACDM was the establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre), in 2011.
10. Since then, the AHA Centre has streamlined the processes for ASEAN Member States on how they can request humanitarian assistance, and it has so far coordinated 36 emergency responses in seven ASEAN Member States.
11. In May this year, the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment Team was deployed in Myanmar, to provide much needed humanitarian assistance to the communities affected by tropical cyclone MOCHA.
Capability to Respond Beyond the Region
12. Second, with support from our partners, ASEAN has made significant progress in building capacity and capabilities in disaster management.
13. As such, we have also been able to extend our humanitarian assistance beyond the region.
14. Earlier this year, major earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria.
15. Several ASEAN Member States deployed rescue teams at short notice to aid in the search and rescue operations.
16. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) also sent a contingent of officers. So did Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
17. I think we can be proud of ASEAN’s response, and in particular, the rescue teams from Member States which worked in very challenging weather conditions and terrain during the rescue operations and contributed significantly.
Commitment to Address Climate Change
18. Third, ASEAN has committed to intensify efforts to deal with the increased frequency of extreme weather events and climate-related hazards.
19. All ASEAN Member States reaffirmed the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2021.
20. And last year, ASEAN issued a Joint Statement on Climate Change at the 27th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties.
Challenges to Be Addressed
21. While we mark our progress, we also look at how much more there is to do.
22. ASEAN is unfortunately one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. One in seven persons in the region were victims of disasters between 2018 and 2022. In the first half of 2023, our region was hit by close to 500 disasters, resulting in many casualties, loss of lives and homes, for many people.
23. In April and May this year, Southeast Asia experienced a heatwave, with Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam, all recording all-time high temperatures.
24. As climate change intensifies, such climate-related disasters will happen more frequently.
25. ASEAN will just have to improve and strengthen our capabilities, so that we can better help our communities.
Future of Disaster Management in ASEAN
26. I will speak about three areas in this context.
Collaborating With International Partners
27. First, we should deepen collaboration with one another and with international partners, so that we can learn from each other, and share expertise and resources. And our collective responses can go much further than our responses as individual states.
28. This year, the Singapore Civil Defence Academy launched new training facilities that include live training simulators to simulate tunnel collapse rescue and flood rescue.
29. The facilities have been designed to replicate urban operating environments which are most relevant for us, like road tunnels, and industrial and mixed-use buildings.
30. Beyond local training, the Civil Defence Academy will also open up its facilities to disaster managers and rescue teams from the region and beyond, so I invite our partners to consider this.
31. This will create opportunities for regional and international rescue units to train together.
32. The AHA Centre’s Executive Programme will also help future disaster management leaders in ASEAN gain the necessary skills, through on-the-job training, and allow them to learn from and collaborate with humanitarian experts in the region. The programme has successfully trained seven batches of disaster managers since 2014.
Building Resilient Communities
33. Second, our communities must be empowered to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters through resilience-building programmes.
34. Project KoNek, implemented under the Philippines Disaster Relief Foundation’s Community Resilience Programme, is one good example.
35. Spanning five years, the project’s goal is to strengthen partnerships and capacities in disaster risk reduction and management at the community and local government levels.
36. For example, this project facilitates simulation exercises conducted by disaster management experts, and they seek to assist communities in the Philippines to prepare for and respond to disasters.
37. Third, we have to incorporate technology to develop solutions in disaster management.
38. This includes improving early warning for impending disasters, strengthening cooperation between disaster management practitioners, and enhancing the response of the community.
39. For example, Indonesia has introduced an app called ‘PetaBencana’ that seeks to integrate data from hydraulic sensors and information from social media to create real-time disaster maps for Jakarta.
40. Millions of residents use the app to stay informed and make decisions on how to get around safely during disasters.
41. In Singapore, the SCDF uses the myResponder mobile app for members of the public to join in civil defence efforts.
42. Those who have signed up as First Responders receive alerts to fire and medical cases which are near where they are, which they can assist with. And, they get training. Users can also upload photos and videos through the app and share their location data with SCDF’s 995 Operations Centre.
43. As ASEAN, we have made significant progress in disaster management.
44. As I said, we have to continue to work together to further strengthen our resilience and our ability to response to disasters.
45. These forums and dialogues during the ADMW go towards achieving these objectives.
46. Thank you to the Chair and Vice-Chair of the ACDM, SCDF, ASEAN Secretariat, and the AHA Centre, for co-organising the ADMW.
47. Thank you also, to our speakers, moderators, partners, and all of you for taking the time to participate here.
48. I wish you a fruitful week ahead, and an enjoyable time in Singapore.
49. Thank you.