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Discussions on the “New Normal”

By Danica Marie Supnet

It’s 11 degrees in the morning here in Baguio City. It’s very hard to wake up with this kind of weather.  Around 6:00 in the morning I hear my siblings racing to the shower room and also smell the breakfast my mom’s cooking. The morning queue reminds me of the reason why I am here In the first place. Should also start hurdling with my siblings and prepare myself to attend the conference.

The 2015 International Conference on Building Resilience and Developing Sustainability (ICBRDS) is a three-day conference (January 14-16, 2014) that focuses on disasters that affect archipelagic typhoon-prone and earthquake-prone areas. It showcases the best practices and innovative technologies in the areas of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), sustainability science, and sustainability development.

This event is hosted by the University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB) through the Cordillera Studies Center (CSC). It is co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation, the University of the Philippines Office of International Linkages (UPOIL), the United Nations World Food Programme Philippines (UN-WFP), and the City Government of Baguio. It accommodated participants all over the Philippines from government agencies, civil society organizations, private sectors, and the academe. The programme is structured in two sets of presentation. First is a morning plenary session by international key speakers and the second session is a series of simultaneous research presentations through multi-disciplinary breakout groups.


UP President Alfred Pascual

The New Normal

“Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) is considered to be the benchmark of disaster (particularly typhoon) in the Philippines” according to Jessie Rey F. Rios of the Office of Civil Defence-Cordillera Administrative Region (OCD-CAR). This statement complements the branding of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) as the “new normal” by the University of the Philippines President, Alfred Pascual.


The experience on disaster encourages people to deal with the current situation rather than lamenting what have been done. The new normal on DRRM is said to have brought a paradigm shift in people’s behaviour and awareness in building resilience.

Politics of Disaster

Dr. Dorothea Hilhorst, Wageningen University—The Netherlands, recognizes disaster studies as largely exceptionalist and technocratic reiterating the gap between the knowledge between the so called “experts” from the “non-experts” in leveraging DRRM. Furthermore she believes that disaster risk reduction and management can only be explained in politics. DRRM is highly political because the current discourse is rich and dynamic but may lack coherence because of the engagement of biophysical (natural science) and the social sciences with diverse traditions according to Dr. Alexander Flor, UP-Open University.


The conference used a multi-disciplinary approach in understanding Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM). Listening from the presentations of the different speakers, it talks about key issues on disaster and DRRM through the questions “what has been done”, “what could have been done” and the “what should we do” based on the experiences of the different sectors and communities during the Typhoon Yolanda (Hayian). It also tackles the issues on the mixed methods and frameworks of DRRM and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA).

My interest on the conference stirred on the clashing ideas and debates on the different perspectives of the various participating sectors. Hearing from my former professors and the key speakers’ presentation, it has also become a refresher of my academic learning. Having all the technical and academic context drawn from the two day presentation, I am looking forward to a more in-group and depth discussion on the ways forward of during the stakeholder’s forum to end the conference.