Welcome Address by President Ma at the 8th International Symposiun on Social Management Systems-Disaster Prevention and Reconstruction Management, SSMS2012


Welcome Address by President Ma at the 8th International Symposiun on Social Management Systems-Disaster Prevention and Reconstruction Management, SSMS2012

CEO of the Reconstruction Council Dr. Chern Jenn-Chuan, the Minister without portfolio Mr. Yang Chiu-hsing, our guests visiting from overseas, representatives from the government, representatives from all private charitable organizations, ladies and gentlemen, Good morning!

I am honored that I was invited here today to take part in this symposium. For the past two years, I have appeared in person at the symposiums held at the 1st and 2nd anniversary of post-Morakot reconstruction because disaster prevention and rescue is a matter of national scale. As the extremely complex disasters becomes increasingly frequent in recent years, the importance of holding exchanges in experience and improving strategies alongside the international community via symposiums has become self-evident.

As natural disasters brought about by global warning and climate change grow increasingly more frequent, the scale of disasters caused by these extreme climate conditions is unprecedented in history, causing major losses in terms of social systems, economies, and lives. According to statistics from the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the deaths of nearly 300,000 people were attributed to natural disasters in 2010, 3.8 times that of numbers from previous years. The Year of 2011 proved to be a succession of disasters around the globe, with a January flood in Australia, earthquake in New Zealand in Feburary, the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, tornadoes and floods in the US from April to May, Mount Umyeon landslides in Korea in July, floods in Thailand from August to October, to the floods and landslides in the Philippines in December. The frequent occurrence of these enormous disasters and the complex disasters formed has resulted in major losses of assets and lives
throughout many countries. Thus, disaster reduction, rescue, and reconstruction has become a vital issue that every country must face.

On August 8th, 2009, Typhoon Morakot seriously impacted Taiwan. The typhoon was a major disaster that  brought 2,854 mm of rain to mountainous regions in central and southern Taiwan. It took 699 precious lives and dealt approximately NT$200 billion in damages, roughly 1.6% of the GDP that year. This is a striking example of extreme national disasters can cause.

Upon encountering such a major disaster, the government immediately processed each disaster rescue mission, emergency repair and supply in accordance to the mechanism outlined in the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act. The reconstruction council was formed 7 days after the disaster and NT$22 billion from the annual budget allotted to deal with the pressing matter of disaster rescue and reconstruction. 12 days after the disaster, a draft of the Reconstruction Special Act was delivered to the Legislative Yuan for review. 20 days after the disaster, the Legislative Yuan passed the Special Act after the third reading. A special budget of NT$116.5 billion was passed within 3 months so that disaster reconstruction efforts could continue on a solid legal and financial basis.

To properly utilize private resources and energy, the government held a corporate homeland adoption reconstruction launch event. Various corporations and NGO groups were invited to help in reconstruction efforts. Through international concern and the boundless love shown by our countrymen, NT$25.1 billion in charitable donations was raised for post-disaster reconstruction. 601 permanent housing units were complete at the 6 month mark following the disaster. As of now, 3,191 permanent housing units are complete in 35 locations, benefitting more than 10,000 citizens. This demonstrates the determination, resolve, and spirit of the Taiwanese people in the face of a major 21st century disaster and the combined accomplishment to move forward and rebuild homes. Here, I would like to thank in particular all the private corporations involved in reconstruction efforts and members of the public for their concern and kindness, from countries all around the world and also those in Taiwan.

Allowing disaster survivors to live and work in peace is the resolute promise of the government.  From the beginning, one of the key policies in the work of rebuilding homes was the construction of “permanent housing” for the placement of disaster survivors.  Land was acquired quickly and provided to reconstruction teams to build permanent housing through funds allocated by the government and special statutes that simplified relevant administrative procedures.  A new homestead for disaster survivors was forged by the central government, local government, and private organizations and a reconstruction model was established between the government and the private sector.

This public-private partnership model for the construction of permanent housing was the first in our nation’s history of reconstruction and is also an important achievement that merits an exchange of experience with the international community.  We hope that Taiwan is not only able to take care of itself, but also to provide assistance overseas when we have the necessary resources.  Humanitarian aid is Taiwan’s most important platform for contributing to the international community.  The Republic of China hopes to play the role of “humanitarian aid provider” in the international community and this is also the direction we have always worked hard towards.

During the reconstruction process after the Morakot disaster, the government continued communicating with disaster survivors and fully respected their opinions and wishes.  With Xiaolin Village as an example, permanent housing was constructed in three separate areas on February 11, 2009, January 15, 2011, and December 24, 2011. Da Ai Xiaolin Community’s 66 units of permanent housing, Wulipu Base Camp’s 90 units of permanent housing, and Sunlight Xiaolin Community’s 120 units of permanent housing were successively completed.  The park for cultural religious heritage and appeasing the deceased has also been completed and has realized our promise of completing the reconstruction of Xiaolin Village in the allotted time.

The completion of physical facilities such as permanent housing is only the beginning of life.  In the future, the focus of reconstruction will be on stimulating lingering industry, employment, culture, living, etc. The government will combine the strength of various sectors to assist in the lives of reconstruction area residents to achieve the goal of living and working in peace.

Having experienced Typhoon Morakot has allowed us to deeply understand the importance of “Disaster prevention is more important than disaster relief. Avoidance of disaster is better than prevention disaster.”  Before immediately facing a huge disaster, the public must be evacuated from the disaster area ahead of time.  When most residents have been settled in a safe zone, disaster rescue becomes relatively easy.  No matter how devastating the material loss, it can be recouped in the future, but valuable lives cannot.

The governmental disaster prevention system experienced a substantial change after Typhoon Morakot.  In order to strengthen the government’s overall disaster prevention ability, the government amended the “Disaster Prevention and Protection Act” on August 4, 2010, established a standing Disaster Prevention and Rescue Office, and expressly ordered that the armed services should actively participant in disaster rescue.  The government conducts disaster prevention and rescue through the principles of “Disaster prevention is more important than disaster relief. Avoidance of disaster is better than prevention disaster,” “When it comes to fighting enemies, we must anticipate the most, and prepare for the worst,” “Surpass preparations, preset troop strength, prevention and rescue at any time.”  At the same time, I have also requested each city and county to reliably perform disaster prevention and rescue drills every year.  In the last 3 years, I have personally attended disaster prevention and rescue exercises held
by the Executive Yuan and witnessed the significant performance of the division of labor between central and local governments.

For example: October 2010 “Typhoon Parma” (Total Rainfall 1528mm; 1 Death), the government immediately implemented the evacuation mechanism, evacuating a total of 7,863 people; September 2010 “Typhoon Fanapi” (Total Rainfall 1128mm; 2 Deaths 111 Injuries) with even more evacuated persons at 16,584 people, more than the 13,374 people of “Typhoon Morakot,” rated the most evacuated people in history.  However, if this evacuation did not occur, the death toll in Pingtung’s Laiyi village is estimated in the hundreds.

Hopefully today’s conference will draw on collective wisdom, include the opinions of every sector, visit the reconstructed region and exchange experience with related international agencies, and provide us with suggestions so we may improve future international cooperation and disaster prevention/rescue work.  Lastly, it is my wish that today’s conference is smooth and successful!  Good health and good luck for all honored guests attending the conference!  Thank you everyone.

President Ma welcomes guests to the symposium and expresses hope that their views will better enable Taiwan to carry out international cooperation and disaster relief work.


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