Archive for the ‘Lifetime’ Category

Partnerships for Disaster and Climate Resilience


Natural hazards – storms, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, drought and landslides – occur regularly in the Philippines but disasters have increased in frequency and magnitude in recent years. The latest was Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on November 8,2013.

The World Risk Report published by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the German Alliance for Development Works (Alliance), and The Nature Conservancy, ranked the Philippines as the third most disaster prone country among 173 countries in the world, behind Vanuatu and Tonga.

Compounding its vulnerability to extreme natural events, the Philippines has seen three times the global average in sea level rise. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Philippines recorded the highest average increase in sea levels in 2013, at 60 centimeters against the global average of 19 centimeters since 1901. Rising sea levels is a “major force of nature” against which countries like the Philippines can do little. Disaster risk reduction, early warning systems and disaster preparedness can help but sea level rise poses a major additional risk.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), noted that the Philippines is greatly affected by rising sea levels around the world, and because of this, even stronger storms in the future could wreak more severe damage to the country. He stressed the need for the Philippines to take climate adaptation seriously in order to prepare itself for what are expected to be continuing major risks from climate change. “The Philippines can brace itself for the worst, but there’s no other way than to drastically change the way structures are built in the coastal areas. It’s to build a more resilient society, a more resilient infrastructure, an infrastructure made of housing, of buildings that resist better in extreme events with very high winds, very strong rain events. That is what is called adaptation to climate change and increasing the resilience,” van Ypersele said.

The Philippine Risk Reduction and Management Act (PRRMA) of 2010 defines resilience as “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions.” More than preservation and restoration, resilience involves three elements: preparedness, adaptation and transformation. While effective disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation are essential to containing and coping with the adverse consequences of natural disasters, resilience requires a transformative change in the way society approaches natural hazards and climate change. It calls for a fundamental transformation in business models and mindsets regarding vulnerability in order to create a truly disaster and climate-resilient society.

Building a Resilient Society: Program Objectives

The proliferation of public and private sector initiatives and activities – shows that there is increased attention being given to building disaster and climate resilience in the Philippines. The private sector, in particular, has become increasingly involved in initiatives to make businesses more resilient to disasters and climate change and to contribute to national efforts at building a resilient society. While work is already underway in this regard, much more needs to be done.

It is in this context that the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace and Development, in cooperation with the Zuellig Family Foundation and the Manila Observatory, will launch a series of events over the next three years, beginning with a conference on July 9-10, 2014, to initiate and stimulate a continuing exchange of ideas and information on how best to build a resilient Philippine society. Beyond better disaster preparedness, risk reduction and climate change adaptation, the conference will give particular attention to the innovative and transformative changes needed to build resilience. The conference is expected to conclude with a statement highlighting the urgency of building a resilient society and proposing a set of concrete follow up measures to help achieve it.

The conference is expected to bring together officials of the Philippine government, experts and scholars, members of the diplomatic community, international organizations, business leaders, local and international NGOs, the media, and bilateral and multilateral aid agencies to explore more effective ways of building resilience in cities and communities throughout the country.

Following the July 2014 conference, the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace and Development, in cooperation with the Zuellig Family Foundation and the Manila Observatory, will undertake a series of follow-up activities over the next three years, including the convening of specialized workshops/roundtables, to review and assess progress, identify roadblocks and find ways to move forward on resilience across sectors and geographic areas.

It should be emphasized that the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace and Development as well as the Zuellig Family Foundation and the Manila Observatory see their role as convenors for multi-stakeholder dialogue and for bringing partners and parties together to act in concert on the basis of a shared approach to building a resilient society. Their aim is not to duplicate or take over the work being done by others in this field but to reinforce and add value to their efforts.

Over a period of three years, the follow-up activities will aim at:

  1. Promoting and supporting multi-stakeholder dialogue on building a resilient Philippine society in the face of the country’s increased exposure and vulnerability to extreme natural events and climate change.
  2. Generating heightened awareness on the urgency of building resilience and contributing to concerted and continuing advocacy for this purpose.
  3. Promoting innovative approaches and solutions to resilience.
  4. Supporting and reinforcing ongoing national and local initiatives and activities to build a resilient society.
  5. Fostering the continuing exchange of experiences, lessons learned and best practices on resilience.
  6. Supporting the mainstreaming of resilience into the country’s development plans, policies and programs.

Conference objectives

The conference itself will seek to:

  1. Develop a common understanding of “resilience”.
  2. Review progress made by various stakeholders — the government, the private sector and business associations, foundations and other aid-giving organizations, the media, the academic community and technical and scientific institutions as well as international/regional organizations – on building resilience.
  3. Identify new and innovative approaches and solutions to building resilience in various sectors – resources (water, food and energy), social services (health care, education and livelihood), and infrastructure (shelter, buildings, roads/bridges, information and communications) – and in cities and local communities with a view to developing a roadmap to resilience.
  4. Enlist the support of the media, including social media, to highlight the importance of building resilience.
  5. Promote multi-stakeholder collaboration on the basis of a shared approach to resilience.
  6. Agree on the follow-up events and activities over the next three years.

A Warrior for Peace

A short documentary chronicling Carlos P. Romulo’s career as a public servant, including seventeen years as Secretary of Foreign Affairs and
ten years as the Philippines’ ambassador to the United States. In World War II Romulo was aide-de-camp to General Douglas MacArthur. He
became a brigadier general in the United States Army in 1944, receiving the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for his service during the War, and later a major general in the Philippine Army.

As a journalist he wrote a series of articles about Japanese imperialism, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. He also authored twenty-two books, three plays, and several poems. The Philippine government named him a National Artist for Literature in 1982, and gave him the rank of Raja of the Order of Sikatuna, an honor usually reserved for heads of state.

He signed the charter forming the United Nations in 1945, was elected president of the UN General Assembly in 1949, and served as head of
the UN Security Council a total of four times.

By the time he died in 1985 “the General” had received well over a hundred awards and decorations as well as more than sixty honorary
degrees from universities all over the world. Extolled by Asiaweek as “A Man of His Century,” he was the most admired Filipino in
international diplomacy of the 20th century.

Written and produced by Liana Romulo, in 1998, on the occasion of her grandfather’s 100th birthday, on behalf of the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace and Development. Narrated by Bong Lapira. Directed by Dik Trofeo.


Forum for a Tiny Planet

Liana Romulo is the daughter of the General’s youngest son, Bobby. When she’s not poring over her grandfather’s papers and trying to date old photographs, she is likely to be practicing Ashtanga yoga, hunting through bookstores, or recommending her favorite dishes to friends at Romulo Café. She lives in the Philippines but likes to wander the world, and has lived in Thailand, Belgium, and the United States. The pieces she writes for this site give her immense satisfaction, though she has also published half a dozen books for kids (available on Amazon and select bookstores worldwide).

CPR’s life traced an extraordinary pattern of starting out in a career, topping it, and then moving on to the next. The English professor became the university president; the soldier became a general; the cub reporter became a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist; and the diplomat became an ambassador, a foreign secretary, even “Mr. United Nations.”

Lolo Carlos and two-year old Liana, March 1969.

Lolo Carlos and two-year-old Liana

So many accomplishments in one lifetime! No wonder his great-grandchildren are confused. I made the site for them. I created it, too, for future generations who might need some bolstering in order to own up to being Filipino, in the hopes that they will prove worthy custodians of a nation whose right to independence CPR so tirelessly pursued. It is also for second- and third-generation Filipinos living overseas who’d like to feel a connection to their roots.

Most of all, this site is for my irrepressible grandfather, whose wisdom, words, and wit do not belong in a cardboard box or even a dusty old archive. Although to me he was just Lolo—the gourmet who took me out for fancy dinners, the giver of dolls from every country, the eater of too much ice cream, the storyteller always interested in hearing about my horseback-riding adventures—I am ever mindful of the legacy he left behind, and I do find myself wholly wrapped up in his vision of a peaceful, borderless world. He described it as “the human family on a tiny planet” in his farewell address to the United Nations. Though not quite seventeen, even I could understand that.

I sat up in the gallery spellbound as he delivered his swan song before the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations. It was November 1983, and my brother and I were on Thanksgiving break from boarding school. We’d seen Lolo speak a million times before, but this speech was different. It was ominous, gloomy . . . filled with despair.

“I do not think the world has much time,” he said darkly. “I do not think it has much time to escape the momentum toward self-destruction upon which it seems set.” Weeping openly, he asked what it would take to “galvanize us into the necessary steps and actions to preserve the world against catastrophe.” My brother sat next to me, fidgeting uneasily in his seat.

Foreign Minister of the Philippines Carlos P. Romulo addressing the UN General Assembly during its 37th regular session, September 27, 1982; where Imre Hollai of Hungary was elected as president.

Foreign Minister of the Philippines Carlos P. Romulo addressing the UN General Assembly during its 37th regular session, September 27, 1982; where Imre Hollai of Hungary was elected as president.

A rousing ovation followed as dignitaries from all over the world—Africa, India, Europe, the USSR—got to their feet, visibly moved. They rushed to pay their respects, a line suddenly forming, snaking around the assembly hall. The ovation continued, unabated, until every last one of the delegates from 154 member nations had shaken his hand; and at the end of what seemed to me at least thirty minutes we gave him a final burst of applause.

This man, my grandfather, was the last surviving signatory of the United Nations Charter. Everywhere we went people knew him, people loved him, and people bowed down to him. But here at the final curtain he was not basking in the glory of his achievements, as one might have expected; rather, he was lamenting his failures and those of the United Nations. “Yes, I have regrets,” he said, his face streaked with tears. “I regret that during these years—1945 to 1983—not more progress has been made in living up to the necessities of a unitary globe.”

I felt sad for my poor old lolo, nearly eighty-six, whose simple wish was for everyone to live together in peace: “The human family on a tiny planet.” Broken down into such basic language, it seemed to me like a reachable goal, a very possible dream. Yet today I find myself, all grown up, surrounded by war and conflict. Twenty-six years later this dream still eludes us.

It is therefore in the spirit of building a kinder world populated by more compassionate people that I dedicate this online forum to my loving grandfather—to honor him, to bring to light his ideas . . . to propagate peace.

Sincerely yours,


Liana Romulo
December 15, 2009