As part of its 81st Anniversary celebration, the Department of National Defense held an online forum on November 9-10, 2020, to promote a broader perspective among its personnel on the country’s stake in the South China Sea (SCS)/ West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Dubbed as “Continuity in the Evolving New Normal: The Philippines’ National Security Challenges in the South China Sea,” the forum offered an opportunity for the participants to discuss matters and share views with legal and academic experts, who were invited to speak at the forum.
Undersecretary for Special Concerns Arnel Duco in his welcome remarks said that “while the DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are preoccupied with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic response, and the ongoing disaster response operations due to the recent super typhoon, we still have to keep our sights focused on external defense issues.”
Usec Duco emphasized that securing the sovereignty of the state and protecting the national territory remain to be the Department’s primary duty.
The forum’s panel of experts included Atty. Neil Simon Silva, a Professorial Lecturer at the University of the Philippines College of Law and Law Reform Specialist; Dr. Charmaine Willoughby, PhD, Associate Professor at the Department of International Studies of the De La Salle University; and Dr. Aaron Jed Rabena, PhD, Research Fellow of the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress and a consultant of the DND.
LTGEN Erickson Gloria AFP, the Commander of the AFP Western Command (WESCOM) and MGEN Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr AFP, Commander, AFP Northern Command (NOLCOM), apprised the forum attendees of the ongoing efforts in addressing the challenges in their respective areas of responsibility.
The discussions, particularly on regional security dynamics, their implications on the SCS/WPS issue, and the efforts being undertaken by the Department in the WESCOM and the NOLCOM, showed that there is an array of responses that can be used to address challenges brought about by overlapping territorial claims and international disputes.
While the AFP continues with its efforts to protect our territories and preserve the territorial integrity of the country through air and sea patrols, littoral monitoring, and capability build-up, among other means, it was clarified that there is no purely military resolution to the contentious maritime issues and challenges in the SCS.
Diplomatic approaches and inter-agency efforts involving the whole of the nation were deemed to be more effective and beneficial for the country.
In his closing remarks, Undersecretary for Defense Policy Ricardo David, Jr. expressed optimism that the forum will not only foster commitment among its participants to incessantly safeguard our national security, but also help advance defense relations in the region.
The forum was attended by more than 200 officials and personnel of the DND, the AFP, and the civilian bureaus of the Department, also collectively known as the One Defense Team.
The DND 81st Anniversary activities are conducted virtually due to the ongoing pandemic brought about by COVID-19. DND