Excellencies Heads of Disaster Management of ASEAN Countries,
Excellency Secretary General of ASEAN,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen
It is my great pleasure to attend the opening of the “3rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management” today. On behalf of Cambodian government and people, I would like to extend the warmest welcome to all participants in this meeting.
This is the second time that Cambodia has hosted the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management. I recall that, in the first meeting on 7th December 2004, we discussed the preparation of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) and tasked the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management to work on it. At the same time, we also established ASEAN Day for Disaster Management as well as International Day for Disaster Reduction, which are held annually since then. This is a global campaign to promote awareness and understanding on disaster preparedness, prevention and response.
Disasters are the phenomena that have occurred for a very long time throughout the world. Disaster causes and forms can be different, but any disaster is a major challenge for all countries and people, be it small or big. Along with the current social progress and technological advancement, especially in the context of rising threat from climate change, disasters that have occurred more frequently with greater magnitude and in increasingly unpredictable manner, have caused great loss of lives and properties. In particular, the Philippine Government is working very hard on situation management in the face of Melor typhoon by evacuating many thousands of people to safety. Obviously, under such circumstance, disaster management has become a very relevant topic for the world, specifically for the ASEAN region that is vulnerable to natural disasters such as flood, drought, storm and so forth.
Overall, although member states have suffered from disasters almost every year, ASEAN region has achieved significant success in the implementation of disaster management cooperation in line with the objective of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, which was signed in Vientiane, Laos, in July 2005, ratified by all 10 member states and came into force in December 2009.
In the context of the rising disasters risk, our essential measures for disaster management focus on preparedness and prevention which necessitate close cooperation amongst neighboring countries in the region. In this regard, key measures requiring attention from all ASEAN countries include:
- Improving the capacities of ASEAN for regional risk assessment, effective and efficient regional early warning activities and inter-country cooperation in disaster mitigation and emergency response;
- Assisting member states in mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into national development policies, plans and sectoral programs and in implementing disaster risk reduction measures by taking into account climate change and sustainable development;
- Enhancing ASEAN countries’ preparedness measures aimed at bettering ASEAN’s disaster response in line with humanitarian standards and operational procedures as well as rapid mobilization of resources;
- Developing technical and institutional capacity of member states to lead, coordinate and manage post-disaster restoration as well as training and exchange of experience for disaster management.
- Enhancing partnership with development partners as well as with national and international organizations to promote disaster resilience and culture of safety in ASEAN region.
Moreover, in the context of ASEAN deepening integration aimed at transforming itself into a stable, peaceful, harmonized and prosperous community, we must prove that ASEAN spearheads disaster management through promoting, mainstreaming, and investing in disaster risk reduction for the safety and resilience of the community in line with “One ASEAN, One Response”.
In this context, I strongly hope that the draft “One ASEAN, One Response” strategy will be finalized in this meeting without further delay in order to prevent and mitigate disasters as well as enhancing preparedness, restoration and resilience.
In fact, in order to achieve our goal of turning ASEAN into a region that is resilient to disaster and to minimize the loss of lives and damage to national and regional economy, we must step up regional solidarity and cooperation in all aspects of disaster management through mutual support. In this spirit, may I share with the meeting some of my views for further discussion as follows:
First, improving the regulatory framework as well as strengthening disaster risk management at all levels through role enhancement and utilization of science-based knowledge in a professional manner of disaster management by involving all stakeholders.
[Start of Comment]
Sharing Information on Disasters
I am calling on (ASEAN disaster management) leaders who will carry out discussion tomorrow to work out a good cooperation with regard to information sharing to reduce impacts. For example, a flood is to happen, Laos may inform the Cambodian side. Cambodia may also have to do the same to Vietnam. This way we can minimize impacts. Some incidents may have caused impacts. We should share information quickly – with forecast what is going to happen at regional or countries that are sharing border with each other. With Thailand, places on the border where their land is higher, we must seek Thai help in sharing us information in advance so the Cambodian side is ready to meet up the challenge. These should also include bush or forest fire. We can work together through sharing information and cooperate in managing cross-border forest fire.
[Stop of Comment]
Second, mainstreaming the disaster risk reduction into the agenda for sustainable development beyond 2015, which must be aligned with the improvement of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation mechanisms in the preparation of development plans.
Third, strengthening human capacity by focusing on deepening data management as well as information sharing at both national and sub-national levels in consistency with ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management.
Fourth, stepping up regional cooperation in managing disaster hazards and clarifying the role of related institutions in terms of preparedness, search and rescue, response and restoration based on ASEAN agreement on disaster management and emergency response.
Fifth, further strengthening multi-hazard response by taking into account the economic and social vulnerability as well as vulnerability and risk assessment to prepare an effective disaster response.
[Start of Comment]
Make Cross-border Rescue a Topic of Discussion
I hope HE the Secretary General of ASEAN will take note on this and make it a topic for the summit or any related meeting. We have been carrying out response and problem solving methods that are both separate and collaborative. However, what is more important and we can do it, is to think of cross-border rescue operation. Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia have already done this. It is a point that is worth considering and we should list it in the discussion of ASEAN leaders. Cambodia and Vietnam did it in 2011. Areas on Cambodia side where people hit by flood, it was impossible to use Cambodia’s own rescue operation. The Vietnamese rescue operation could do a better job. They can take these people to safe high ground on Vietnam’s side.
We also did that with Thailand. For areas along the Cambodia-Thailand border, in case of fire, rescue operation from the Cambodian side would take longer time than those from Thailand for reason of distance. However, with rescue operation in action some may take it for Thai aggression on Cambodia. This is a problem. This also is an issue of “One ASEAN, One destiny” issue. If we can have all ten countries in a single response, it would be great. However, we should anticipate neighboring countries’ response such as between Cambodia and Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam or with Thailand or Thailand and Laos, etc. for that matter.
We should discuss this issue because it is one among many to search for cross-border rescue operation, which we already did in the past, while it has not yet become a listed action in our agreement. However, on bilateral front, I always work with neighboring countries on this sort of operation though we must explain our people what is happening to prevent misunderstanding of the operation to aggression. May I ask the Secretary General of ASEAN to include this into the framework of discussion, especially officials on disaster management and should call it the Phnom Penh recommendation for discussion.
[Stop of Comment]
Finally, I wish you a very successful meeting and fruitful deliberations. I also wish you pleasant stay in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
May I now declare the opening of “The Third ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management”!