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Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011
Region's firms sorely lacking in continuity plans
Disaster prep key for companies, APEC affirms
By ALEX MARTIN
SENDAI — A three-day meeting on disaster preparedness by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum economies wrapped up Wednesday with attendees reaffirming the necessity to formulate and promote business continuity plans to improve risk-management in the private sector.
A joint statement issued by cohosts Japan and the United States said the workshop, held in Sendai, was an important step toward realizing the joint commitment established by the two governments during a March 2010 APEC meeting, including ways to protect societies from threats including natural disasters.
"Themes included strengthening business and supply chain resilience as well as engaging the private sector in business continuity planning as part of a broader effort to facilitate trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region," the statement read.
The workshop, attended by more than 100 government officials and experts from 17 of the 21 APEC economies, was the first international conference held in an area affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The results of the meeting will be reported to the Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum (SDMOF) in September.
The last day of the workshop included sessions focusing public and private partnership and inter-APEC cooperation in promoting business continuity plans in the APEC region, as well as field trips to coastal areas near Sendai hit by the March disaster.
Masaru Watanabe, a Foreign Ministry official who helped moderate the workshop, said that in a survey of more than 200 businesses in the APEC region, only 28 percent had established business continuity plans, reflecting the need to further promote the concept.
Some 26 percent of the respondents said they had not drawn up such a plan, while 37 percent said they weren't even aware of what a business continuity plan is.
Among the topics discussed during the meeting were ways to raise awareness of business continuity plans as well as accumulating "lessons learned" from past disasters among APEC economies — of which many lie in the seismic Pacific Ring of Fire.
"The APEC region is especially prone to disasters, and I realized that we need to strengthen our business resilience by learning from how others responded to disasters," Watanabe said.
At the end of the meeting, Taiwan said it was willing to officially propose during the September APEC meeting a multiyear project on disaster resilience building for small and medium-size enterprises in APEC economies.