SM Prime Holdings Inc.’s Jessica Sy talks resilience, sustainable communities at the 2022 Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction

With the ever-looming threat of disasters and climate change, disaster risk management and sustainability have become even more urgent concerns. The breakneck speed of developments globally amplifies disaster risks, with the consequences far reaching, often, heartbreaking, especially on the most vulnerable. 

This is where the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR) comes in. Convened by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), it is the main regional platform in the Asia-Pacific region for promoting coordination and cooperation on DRR.

This year, the APMCDRR was hosted by the Australian Government and convened in Brisbane, Australia on September 19-22, 2022.  Among those present were MSRSG and UNDRR Head Mami Mizutori, Marco Toscano-Rivalta, Chief of Office UNDRR Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Senator Murray Watt, Australian Minister for Emergency Management and head of the Australian delegation to the APMCDRR, representatives of UN Member States, intergovernmental organizations, international and national organizations, and private sector stakeholders.

Ms. Jessica Sy with Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Mami Mizutori

The Philippine delegation to the APMCDRR was headed by Sec. Maria Antonia “Toni” Yulo -Loyzaga, Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Usec Raymundo B. Ferrer, Administrator, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) & Executive Director, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).  Representatives from the different departments of government which deals with DRR were also present together with NGOs, civil society, private sector including members of ARISE Philippines and National Resilience Council.

The APMCDRR is a platform for implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. The framework was the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda that provided member states with concrete actions to protect development gains from the risks of disasters.

It is the nexus of sustainable development, climate, and humanitarian agendas, advocating the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods, health, and in economic, physical, social, cultural, and environmental assets.

While it recognizes that the State should take on the primary role in reducing disaster risk, the responsibility must be shared with the local government, private sector, and other stakeholders.

Jessica Bianca T. Sy, DENR Sec. Maria Antonia Yulo- Loyzaga, OCD Administrator/NDRRMC Executive Director Usec Raymund Ferrer

During the Ministerial Forum of the conference, DENR Secretary Loyzaga on behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines stated that “compound and cascading hazards and fragile systems urgently require fundamental shifts towards all-hazards, whole-of-society, transdisciplinary, and systems approaches to preventive risk governance that is inclusive, responsive, and adaptive.” 

SM Prime on behalf of the private sector delivered the statement on the role of private sector in disaster risk reduction in partnership with public sector. Ms. Jessica Sy, SMDC AVP – Business Development Cluster Head, stated that “the private sector members, recognize our duty in reducing disaster risks to avert loss of lives, assets and livelihood. We champion transformative and whole-of-society solutions to address challenges, in alignment with the public sector, while we harness the power of data and technological innovations using our corporate resources and networks.” She further emphasized that Public – Private Partnerships (PPPs) have led to a responsible and adaptive approach to DRR. The strong collaboration between the private and public sector delivered significant results to create sustainable communities in making countries more resilient. 

Harnessing data and technological innovations

SM Prime is a member of the UNDRR-led Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE), a global network of 400+ member private sector entities that collaborate to implement the DRR goals of the framework. It also co-chairs the National Resilience Council (NRC) in the Philippines.

During the Partner’s Event organized by ARISE Philippines and participated in by Asian Institute of Management (AIM), NRC, International Finance Corporation (IFC), UNICEF and SMDC, Ms. Jessica Sy mentioned how SM Prime and SMDC take on the sense of urgency for DRR by building smarter and beefing up developments against worsening disasters with the use of data and technological innovations.

Sy explained how the design philosophy of SM Development Corporation (SMDC), the residential real-estate component of SM Prime, is grounded in the idea of creating sustainable homes and communities that are accessible to more Filipinos. 

SM’s inclusive and sustainable urban development through adoption of technological application is one way of championing a transformative and whole-of-society adaptation of the challenges related to DRR.

The company takes pride in meticulously planned property developments that integrate sustainable, inclusive, and environment-friendly features, from planning to full operation. They refer to information and employ practices supported by engineering and technology, making projects more secure against environmental and weather hazards which are now increasingly more destructive due to climate change.

Material wastage is minimized by reusing and repurposing construction materials. For enhanced energy efficiency, SMDC’s projects use LED lights and structures are designed to allow natural light and ventilation to seep into common areas and living spaces.

SMDC Vine Residences in Novaliches, Quezon City, for example, are built on stilts to mitigate flooding hazards and to maintain and sustain the structural integrity of buildings to mitigate erosion risks.

SMDC Park Residences in Santa Rosa and SMDC Charm Residences in Cainta have water detention tanks to catch and hold floodwaters and to regulate water outflow and contribute to flood control of the area.

Being one of the biggest integrated property developers in Southeast Asia, Sy shared that they recognize the importance of building innovative and sustainable lifestyle developments that already integrate malls, residential areas, offices, hotels, convention centers, even schools.

Aside from uplifting the lives of resident communities, they ensure that their business strategies are hinged on principles of sustainability that contribute to value creation over time.

“More than just building condominiums, we build communities of people. We are conduits of nation-building, and we create a positive impact on the lives of our residents and the broader community that we belong to,” Sy shared.

Supported by SM Prime and SMDC’s commitment to the attainment of UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, it launched the “The Good Guys” program, which provides support to homeowners and tenants. Through the program, they hold various initiatives that empower communities including job fairs, entrepreneurship programs, and health and wellness caravans.

Moreover, in the master-planning of development projects as sustainable communities, features are designed to make seamless people-to-people, transportation, and infrastructure connectivity for enhanced human, social, economic, and environmental impact.

SMDC Light Residences and SMDC Light 2 Residences in Mandaluyong City have direct connections to the MRT-3. The SM Prime Mall of Asia complex will access the planned Integrated Pasay Monorail, connecting Pasay City central business district with the LRT-1 and MRT- 3 lines.

SMDC developments aim to connect to transportation hubs and interchanges. Gold City Residences on NAIA Road will have access to the Metro Manila Subway; Spring Residences in Bicutan, Air Residences in Makati, Lush Residences in Makati, and Glam Residences in Diliman, Quezon City are situated near transportation nodes.

Emphasizing the role of women in disaster risk reduction

In the final statement, during the awarding ceremonies of the UNDRR Women International Network for Disaster Risk Reduction (WIN DRR) Excellence Awards, Jessica Sy called on women leaders from all levels of society to actively participate in leadership in decision-making in DRR.

Ms. Jessica Sy presents WIN DRR Leadership Award to Excellence Award to Vanuatu’s Dr. Esline Garaebiti, Director General, Ministry of Climate Change Adaptation, Meteorology, Geo-Hazards, Environment, Energy and Disaster Management.

Citing last year’s Excellence Award winner, Vasiti Soko of Fiji and Rising Star Awardee Dr. Rahma Hanifa of Indonesia, she mentioned how these women are relentless in supporting and mentoring women leaders in their countries.

She took pride in how SM Prime has always advocated women empowerment, gender equality, and inclusivity especially in its leadership. Sy mentioned that they have signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) of UN Women and strongly support the WIN DRR Philippines’ Network.

Ms. Jessica Sy with Sen. Murray Walt, Australian Minister for Emergency Management

“There is no more ‘glass ceiling to break,’ so to speak, in our group of companies,” she said, “as women leaders have reached the pinnacle of leadership and held positions of power—even the presidency,” she said. 

“SM CARES, our corporate social responsibility arm, has several programs specifically dedicated to women empowerment, resilience, health, and their well-being,” Sy added.

The four-day APMCDRR2022 centered on the theme “From Crisis to Resilience: Transforming the Asia-Pacific Region’s Future Through Disaster Risk Reduction.” A key outcome of the #APMCDRR2022 will be the release of the Brisbane Declaration, which will confirm the region’s commitment to achieving the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction by 2030.