DND continues to protect PH sovereignty despite Covid-19

The Department of National Defense (DND) continues to secure the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity while being preoccupied with helping the national government contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“(Not) withstanding our preoccupation with Covid-19 response we have fulfilled our strategic priorities. This includes securing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State, promoting internal stability attaining the highest standard capability and preparedness on disasters to sustaining operations in support to global peace and security and pursuing good government,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in his speech Monday during the virtual celebration of the agency’s 81st anniversary.

Lorenzana said this includes the construction of vital infrastructures in the Kalayaan Island Group, Batanes Group of Islands, Sulu Sea, Philippine Rise, and the West Philippine Sea for territorial defense operations.

“In compliance with the President’s instructions, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) also strengthened its presence in the country’s eastern seaboard in Fuga Island, (also) we now have a beaching ramp and seaport in the municipality of Pag-asa, this would allow heavy equipment to be brought in for the repair of the airfield and now the materials to improve the living conditions of our troops and civilian citizens living there,” he added.

Lorenzana also reported that the AFP’s air domain coverage in the West Philippine Sea has increased from 27 percent to 57 percent in 2019.

“This was due to our air defense surveillance radars, surveillance aircraft, and long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles,” he added. Lorenzana also considered a milestone for AFP the delivery of the corvette BRP Conrado Yap (PS-39) in 2019 and missile-frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) last May as it reinforces the capabilities of the Philippine Navy (PN).

“Likewise, our brand new ‘Super Tucano’ close-air-support aircraft (deliveries completed last October) would replace the ‘Bronco’ OV-10 attack aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in close combat support and strike missions,” he said.

Lorenzana also cited gains against communist and local terrorist groups as the AFP neutralized thousands of enemies and seized a “sizeable” number of firearms, improvised explosive devices, and anti-personnel mines during the first half of 2020.

“Our troops destroyed hundreds of enemy camps and strongholds and cleared the highest number of guerrilla fronts in the past decade. Three additional fronts were dismantled this year,” he added.

As a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, Lorenzana said the DND-led lines of efforts were also commendable as about 14,000 communist insurgents have returned peacefully to mainstream society or the folds of the law.

Many were given reintegration assistance under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP.

“Moreover, we pursued the expansion of our bilateral and multilateral engagement to further promote our national interest and international peace. Closer ties have been fostered with South Korea and Japan making us the first ASEAN member state to receive excess Japanese defense equipment. Complementing this, we commenced cooperation with non-traditional partners like Israel, Jordan, Sri Lanka, and Croatia,” Lorenzana said.

The DND commemorates its founding anniversary every November, pursuant to Commonwealth Act No.1, or the National Defense Act of 1935, signed by then President Manuel Quezon and enacted on November 1, 1939. PNA.GOV.PH