Press Releases Archived (September 2016)

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"We are doing things right, but we need to do more."

This was the message of Dr. Gilberto Llanto, president of state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), during a press conference in Quezon City in line with the celebration of the 14th Development Policy Research Month (DPRM).

The press conference, which was conducted in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency, was part of a series of events the Institute has organized throughout the month of September.

The DPRM is celebrated across the country every September in view of Malacaang Proclamation No. 247 issued in 2002. The proclamation declares the observance of a DPRM to promote and draw public awareness and appreciation of the importance of policy research in the formulation of sound policies, programs, and projects. The proclamation also designated PIDS as the lead government agency in the yearly celebration of the DPRM.

This year's DPRM highlights the importance of building the country's resilience, aptly captured in the event slogan, "Angkop na Kahandaan: Matatag na Ekonomiya at Lipunan".

"By resilience, the DPRM underscores not just resilience to the effects of climate change and natural hazards but resilience to all kinds of risk factors, whether economic, financial, environmental, technological, geopolitical, or societal," Llanto said in his opening speech.

Also with him were officials from member-agencies of the DPRM Steering Committee, namely, Philippine Information Agency Director General Harold Clavite, Civil Defense Public Affairs Chief and Spokesperson Romina Marasigan, Department of Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo, and Chief Information Officer Oscar Lizardo of Project NOAH or the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards.

No escaping geography

During the press conference, Llanto presented the risk landscape outlined by the World Economic Forum, highlighting the varied, interconnected, and constantly evolving nature of risks.

He explained that this year's DPRM aims to influence the country's policymakers and different sectors to make policies and programs that can help the Philippines become resilient in the face of multiple risks.

He also cited a United Nations study listing the Philippines the second most at risk country in the world to natural hazards and disasters.

In the agriculture sector alone, for instance, the cost of damages to property caused by tropical cyclones amounted to roughly PHP 36 million in 2014, according to data from the Office of Civil Defense.

"We cannot escape geography. Like it or not, these things will happen year in and year out," he explained.

The Philippines is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, which makes it vulnerable to frequent typhoons and earthquakes.

'Not enough resilience'

Llanto clarified, however, that while we are exposed to multiple risks and very vulnerable to them, the Philippines is not hopeless. In fact, the country, he said, is doing fine in terms of the growth of its gross domestic product (GDP).

As of the second quarter of 2016, the Philippine GDP grew 7 percent, according to the latest data of the National Economic and Development Authority.

"We are in an era of political stability, and we are able to put our house in order," Llanto said.

During his presentation, Lizardo also added that the Philippines currently has "world-class" facilities that can help the government assess the behavior of hazards. For flooding, the country, he said, is equipped with hazard maps and flood modelling simulations that can identify the most flood-prone areas down to the barangay level. His agency has likewise developed hazard maps for landslides and storm surges that local government units can use for planning disaster risk management and land development.

"I cannot think of any country in our particular region that does the same," the chief information officer of Project NOAH said.

Despite these successes, Llanto cautioned: "We cannot be complacent and that is what we want to emphasize in this years DPRM." He stressed that other areas may still be needing improvement although the country has already implemented outstanding strategies in addressing environmental and health hazards.

Llanto also bared the country currently does not have enough resilience due to the institutional and policy reforms done by the previous administrations.

"However, there is a need for us to broaden our understanding of risks and resilience. We need to look beyond natural hazards and acknowledge that the sources of risks are many and that those risks are interconnected," Llanto explained.

"We are a very vulnerable country. We have to do something, not only about the environment but also about developing resilience in our local communities," he added.

He said these communities should have absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities, able to withstand various shocks and stresses and more resilient to change than their previous states.

'Develop resilience thinking'

The PIDS official explained that while the government has already created different types of responses, such as climate information systems, what the country really needs is to "develop resilience thinking".

"We need to make this idea [of resilience] filter down to the last household in local communities," Llanto told the members of the press.

He said it is important to raise the awareness of households on the things that are happening around them, otherwise "they will be caught unprepared."

The DPRM theme of building a resilient Philippines is aligned with the focus of the Institutes new five-year research agenda for the period 2015-2019. "The studies of our experts in agriculture, health, fiscal policy, among others, in the next five years will be guided by the said theme," Llanto said.

Other press conferences related to the DPRM are expected to be held in Pampanga, Legaspi, and Tacloban. A joint policy forum with the World Bank-Philippines on small and medium scale enterprises development will also be conducted on September 8. A seminar on social protection and risk management co-sponsored by the Institute with the University of San Carlos in Cebu is slated for September 29. The highlight of the DPRM is the Second Annual Public Policy Conference on "Risks, Shocks, Building Resilience" on September 22 in Pasig City.

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Local researchers and representatives from government agencies and the private sector brought mining, governance, and disaster-related issues to the fore during the 2nd Mindanao Policy Research Forum held in Butuan City on September 1, 2016. Researchers from Caraga State University (CSU) and Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) steered the discussion with their presentations on responsible mining in Mindanao, geographic information system (GIS) for local government units (LGUs), and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) initiatives.

On responsible mining

In her presentation, Dr. Raquel Balanay of CSU said that the mining process starts in exploration and ends in rehabilitation. Her study, which started in 2012, revolved in infusing a science and technology-based program to achieve responsible mining in Mindanao. This particular study involved eight components: (1) terrestrial biodiversity assessment, (2) aquatic biodiversity assessment, (3) profiling of artisanal and small-scale gold mining, (4) documentation of contamination pathways, (5) rehabilitation of mined-out areas, (6) processing of chromite and laterite ores, (7) development of alternative technologies for small-scale mining, and (8) generating web-based information system for responsible mining. These components were aimed at confronting issues related to mercury and cyanide pollution, erosion, environment degradation, and landscape destruction, among others.

"The ultimate goal of the program is to implement a socially acceptable, economically viable, environment-friendly, and sustainable mining in Mindanao," said Balanay. This, she added, entailed crafting of policies on wildlife conservation and pollution management, and addressing the lack of information on the concept behind responsible mining.

However, Balanay admitted that responsible mining has no universal definition yet. This echoed the sentiments of REACH Foundation Executive Director Arceli Nagpala, who served as one of the discussants in the forum. According to her, the parameters that make mining "responsible" should first be identified. She suggested for a national government vision for mining, where planning starts at the regional level.

On developments in local government

Technological developments in local governance in Butuan City were also highlighted during the forum. Engr. Michelle Japitan, also from CSU, led the presentation on the Comprehensive Land Information Management System (CLAIMS) that is being implemented in the city. By harnessing the technological benefits of GIS, the CLAIMS-GIS Project is able to address Butuan's need for an integrated and automated systems for real property unit mapping, assessment, and tax collection. The project optimizes the use of these maps for various spatial mapping endeavors, particularly in crafting comprehensive land use plans and other disaster risk assessment applications.

"It has been one of the goals of the city to develop Butuan as a "Smart City". The CLAIMS-GIS Project could be the springboard that will launch never-before-seen Butuan City technologies," said Japitan.
Other developments instituted in the local government of Butuan were: (1) a barangay system profiler that performs geotagging on households; (2) a tree-tracker application for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which locates and monitors planted seeds; and (3) a disaster aid tagger and access system that designates households to evacuation centers, among others.

On disaster risk management

As co-organizer of the forum, FSUU's Dr. Shirlene Medori Alegre, director for Graduate Studies and Research, and Mr. Jeffrey Carin, director for Community Involvement and Advocacy, presented the universitys security and safety measures, and its DRRM initiatives.

"School safety ensures the continuity of providing quality education for students. This requires a dynamic and continuous process instigated by school administrators and participated by all stakeholders. Disasters can be prevented and mitigated with the spirited application of knowledge, creativity, and resourcefulness," said Alegre. Thus, disaster preparedness should be an integral part of educational planning, she added.

Carin, meanwhile, highlighted the need for appropriate, relevant, and responsive solutions to face immediate and identified problems that impede growth. According to him, the integrated community involvement and advocacy framework that FSUU is implementing aims to promote a holistic program that instills development values in their students. The framework also addresses disaster risk reduction and management facets that include preparedness, relief operations, and rehabilitation programs.

Aware of the importance of collaboration, Carin said, "We cannot conduct these programs without tapping government agencies, civil societies, and the private sector." This call was received favorably by the OIC-Assistant Regional Director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-Region 13, Donald Seronay, who said that the government and the academe are conducting overlapping projects that could be resolved by collaboration.

"DRRM and climate change adaptation are an integral part of managing local governments. Higher education institutions that conduct DRRM-related trainings are already helping LGUs in achieving DRRM competencies," Seronay said.

Way forward

Attended by more than 100 participants from different sectors in the region, the 2nd Mindanao Policy Research Forum was jointly organized by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), FSUU, and the Commission on Higher Education-Caraga. The event officially kicked off the celebration of the 14th Development Policy Research Month, which focuses on the theme "Investing in Risk Reduction for a Resilient Philippines".

According to Dr. Alexander Campaner, who served as moderator of the forum, the gathering of Mindanawon researchers, policymakers, and public and private stakeholders aims for more collaborations in research and policymaking for the benefit of Mindanao.

Director Reyzaldy Tan of MinDA closed the forum by encouraging the participants to walk the talk in DRRM, and in nurturing resilient communities in Mindanao.


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Following the successful gathering of Mindanawon researchers and policymakers in Davao City in 2015, state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) held the 2nd Mindanao Policy Research Forum in Butuan City on September 1, 2016. To better link policy stakeholders and the research community in the region, this year's event was co-organized by Butuan-based Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU) and the Commission on Higher Education-Caraga (CHED-Caraga).

Kicking off the celebration of the 14th Development Policy Research Month (DPRM), the forum centered on the theme "Nurturing Resilient Communities in Mindanao toward Sustainable Development". It brought together more than 100 participants from the local government, academe, civil society organizations, and the private sector to unpack the issues that cause the region's vulnerability to threats and overlapping risks. Members of local tribes in Agusan del Norte also participated in the forum to air their views on matters that affect the indigenous peoples of Mindanao.

In his welcome remarks, FSUU President Rev. Fr. John Christian Young said that policy research is often neglected in the Philippines. For instance, he said that Thais and Vietnamese learned agriculture in the Philippines, but they managed to overtake the country in terms of agricultural yield and development. For him, this is a policy issue that needs to be looked at, and research plays a crucial role in doing so. Hence, he emphasized that the forum is an opportunity to build capacity in doing research and to promote its utilization--both, he said, are crucial to nation building, especially for Mindanao.

Young then raised four questions addressed to the participants of the forum: (1) How much research is utilized by policymakers, legislators, and regulators?; (2) How much resources do we put in research and in building capacity for research in our own institutions?; (3) Why are there incidences of data suppression in some government institutions?; and (4) How can we ensure truly independent research, and how do we engage other organizations to do research in validating results? These questions, according to Young, have implications in policy research and development.

"It is important to ensure that truly independent research is moved forward. Research needs to be free from politics, ideology, and even from budgetary pressure. Unless we conduct research and use it in decisionmaking, we will go around in circles, and our nation will never be served," emphasized Young.
Engr. Ramil Sanchez, supervising education specialist at CHED-Caraga, agreed that the forum is also an opportune time to discuss pressing issues confronting Mindanao. He said that with the leadership and support of President Rodrigo Duterte, the realization of Mindanao as a "land of promise" becomes a possibility. CHED, however, is at a challenging time as changes in the education landscape, such as K to 12 and internationalization, become more apparent. Sanchez, thus, encouraged forum participants, particularly those from professional and higher education institutions, to develop a research culture that is crucial for the country's economic and inclusive growth. He also challenged government agencies to evaluate its programs, aside from doing research on new fields. Lastly, Sanchez said that the research community has to harness technology, including social media, to collaborate with local partners in doing research. This, claimed Sanchez, will enable communities to be more resilient and to stay ahead of the many unexpected things that may happen in the future.

Dr. Sheila Siar, director for research information at PIDS, meanwhile, provided the framework of the forum and gave insights on the importance of celebrating the DPRM in Mindanao. According to her, "Mindanao is a region with so many possibilities but, admittedly, has a lot of untapped potentials in terms of human, economic, cultural, and social capital." Siar underscored that to bring Mindanao to its fullest potential, it has to be resilient to different types of risk. "Mindanao has suffered immensely over the years from a host of overlapping risk factors, including armed conflict, natural hazards, environmental degradation, and poverty incidence." This signals the need, she said, for a more proactive and innovative response to risks and shocks by way of evidence-based policies, programs, and interventions.

Divided in two plenary sessions, the forum focused on agricultural and environmental resilience, which are aspects that have so much impact on the region. In the morning session, PIDS Research Fellows Danilo Israel and Celia Reyes presented their studies on the impact evaluation of the National Greening Program and the Crop Insurance Program of the government, respectively. Researchers from Caraga State University opened the afternoon session with studies on responsible mining and geographic information system for local government. These were presented, respectively, by Dr. Raquel Balanay and Engr. Michelle Japitan. Dr. Shirlene Medori Alegre and Mr. Jeffrey Carin, both from FSUU, meanwhile, presented the universitys security and safety measures, and its disaster risk reduction and management initiatives.

Representatives from the Bangsamoro Development Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Caraga, Department of the Interior and Local Government-Caraga, and REACH Foundation served as discussants.

During the lunch break, a press conference on the DPRM theme "Investing in Risk Reduction for a Resilient Philippines" was held at the FSUU Board Room for the members of the local media. Siar and Israel were joined in the panel by Director Reyzaldy Tan of MinDA and representatives of the regional offices of CHED, Department of Health, and Department of Science and Technology. This was held simultaneously with a presentation for the forum participants by Mark Vincent Aranas of PIDS on the Socioeconomic Research Portal for the Philippines (SERP-P), a database with more than 5,000 socioeconomic materials contributed by PIDS and more than 50 member-institutions comprising the SERP-P network.

In his closing remarks for the forum, Tan noted that balancing green and urban development is a function of a holistic, inclusive, and sustainable growth. He also centered on "walking the talk" in building resilience, as this requires responsive and adaptive capacities, innovation, localization, education, and focusing on niches, among others.

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The World Bank Group partnered with state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in a forum aimed at strengthening the potential of the Philippines' small and medium enterprises in the local and global markets.

Titled "Increasing Philippine SMEs' Participation in the Global Value Chains", the forum coincided with the celebration of the 14th Development Policy Research Month (DPRM), which centers on the theme "Investing in Risk Reduction for a Resilient Philippines".

"Building resilient systems in our country would not be complete if we disregard our micro, small and medium enterprises. After all, they are the lifeblood of the Philippine economy," said Dr. Sheila Siar, PIDS director for research information, in her opening remarks.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that MSMEs represent 99.6 percent of all enterprises in the country, accounting for 36 percent of the gross domestic product in 2014. Sixty-three percent of the total jobs generated by all business establishments were contributed by the MSME sector.

"There is no doubt that MSMEs are the backbone, the heart, and the lungs of the economy," said Cecile Fruman, Trade and Competitiveness Director of the World Bank Group. She added that MSMEs are critical to the country's economic growth, employment creation, and poverty reduction.

However, many factors threaten their competitiveness in the global market. These include low rate of business entry, low productivity, and the stagnation of the sectors structure.

The more productive medium-sized enterprises, for instance, only account for 0.4 percent of the total number of MSMEs in the country, compared to micro enterprises, which comprise 90.3 percent of the sector.

"Very few firms are really able to get into that medium segment," Fruman added.

Vulnerable to natural hazards, disasters

One possible reason to the stagnation of the MSMEs' structure is their vulnerability to disasters.

"Micro enterprises, particularly, are more vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters than medium and large enterprises," Siar explained. "They are usually the ones severely affected by strong typhoons, floods, and earthquakes."

Unfortunately, there is no standby government support to refinance businesses in the Philippines in the event a disaster occurs, according to World Bank Senior Financial Sector Specialist Nataliya Mylenko.

Moreover, despite a law requiring banks to allocate at least 10 percent of their credit resources to MSMEs, local banking system's compliance remained low at 9.2 percent for the first quarter of 2016, based on data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. This is because formal financial institutions generally regard MSMEs as high-risk clients.

"The banks actually would just opt to pay the penalty instead of giving loans to MSMEs," said Dr. Romeo Balderrama, president of the Philippine Homestyle and Holiday Decor Association, one of the company-representatives of the MSME sector in the forum.

Development Bank of the Philippines Vice President Benel Lagua said his institution is willing to engage in disaster financing. However, it can be a "little bit costly" to them.

Mylenko explained that while the government carries the cost related to reconstruction and recovery, it fails to sufficiently cover MSMEs after calamities.

"There needs to be an element of public subsidy [to support them]," she argued.

'More systematic thinking' needed

Mylenko, however, clarified that the financing issue is only one part of the problem Philippines MSMEs are facing.

"There are also issues on regulation, skills, and innovation," she said.

She added that since disasters are inevitable in the Philippines, a "more systematic thinking" is needed.

Relatedly, PIDS President Gilberto Llanto underscored the importance of "resilience thinking" in a press conference earlier this month. "There is a need for us to broaden our understanding of risks and resilience. We need to look beyond natural hazards and acknowledge that the sources of risks are many and that those risks are interconnected," said Llanto.

This year's DPRM highlights the crucial role of building multiple resilience systems, including at the level of MSMEs.

PIDS will also conduct other events related to promoting resilience thinking. The Second Annual Public Policy Conference on "Risks, Shocks, Building Resilience" will be held on September 22. This will be followed by a policy forum on social protection and risk management at the University of San Carlos in Cebuy City on September 29.

The DPRM is celebrated across the country every September in view of Malacanang Proclamation No. 247 issued in 2002. The proclamation declares the observance of a DPRM to promote and draw public awareness and appreciation of the importance of policy research in the formulation of sound policies, programs, and projects. The proclamation also designated PIDS as the lead government agency in the yearly celebration of the DPRM. ###