Tacloban, Philippines

21 December 2013

Secretary-General's press conference in Tacloban, Philippines

Magadang hapon. ["Good afternoon in Tagalog]

Maupay nga kulop. ["Good afternoon" in Waray, the local dialect]

Thank you for your warm welcome. It's a pleasure to see you, but it's with a very heavy and sad heart.

I'm deeply saddened and humbled by what I have seen – the immense loss of life and total destruction. It's beyond description – how can I describe the feeling which I have after having seen the tragedies and suffering which you are experiencing?

I am sorry, deeply sorry, for all what [this] has caused you, the loss of life your dear family members, many injured people, complete destruction of your society.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I'm here to convey my strongest solidarity and that of the United Nations and the international community.

The United Nations was one of the first responders. We deployed our senior and all hardworking staff who have been working day and night with all of their people.

I appreciate and commend the very courageous leadership of President [Benigno Simeon C.] Aquino [III] and his ministers and his team and his people who have been courageously addressing this tragedy.

This is a tragedy but it can be overcome when we are united. I am here to bring that unity and solidarity to all of your people.

The United Nations will continue to mobilize resources. The Strategic Response Plan – we are now trying to mobilize at least $800m over 12 months. This will be just to complement what your people, your Government, will do. We will try to provide life-saving support –  water, sanitation, food, and shelter – and also a long-term development strategy. That's [how] we're going to work.

Your Government is responsible for resettlement, reintegration, and infrastructure. The United Nations and Philippines Government will work [together] very closely.

At this time, it may be very difficult to attribute one single storm, Typhoon Yolanda, to the climate change phenomenon. The intensity and severity and magnitude of this destruction and frequency of natural disasters, extreme weather patterns, as we have seen, indicate clearly what international scientists have been saying: that it may be a man-made disaster because climate change has been caused by human beings. Then, the solution must be found by human beings. That's why I am here.

I have discussed [this] at length with President Aquino this morning, how the United Nations and the Member States of the United Nations, including the Philippines, can work together to strengthen our capacity to reduce disasters.

We may not prevent this storm, but at least we can reduce and minimize the loss of life, the damage of our properties, valuable properties. That's what I'm going to [sound the] alarm [to] the world again, send out strong messages to the world, and I'll try to focus, have the world focus, on reconstruction and resettlement of your country and of your community.

I thank [Tacloban] Mayor [Alfred] Romualdez and [Leyte province] Governor [Dominico] Petilla and all leaders, UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] and ministers here, for their hard work. And I commend the hard work of all these people who are now clearing debris.

Many international members are sending their helping hands. At least 180 international partners are here, at least 25 countries are sending their engineering team, military rescue teams. I really appreciate their very noble generous support. This is what we need to do for humanity.

I really wish you all the best, and let us build back a better and safer world. This is our commitment. Let's build back better and safer.

Thank you. Salamat [“Thank you” in Tagalog].

Q: What are your impressions of the areas which you visited here in Tacloban and your impressions of the Filipino people? What would you say to the Filipino people about our resilience here?

SG: Having been around this community, Tacloban, I was, of course, very much saddened, but at the same time, I was very much impressed by the resilience of your people. I have already seen [that] the people are returning back to their normal lives, businesses are coming back, and people are working hard, people are united.

My message to the Filipino people is: never despair. The United Nations is behind you. The world is behind you. We will mobilize all resources and will to help you. We are very much grateful.

You cannot do [this] alone. Maybe the United Nations cannot do [this] alone. We need support from all the Member States… your country and neighbouring countries and the world. This is what I'm going to do as Secretary-General of the United Nations. And I wish you all the best.

Thank you very much. Salamat.