Defense chief discusses 3 major security challenges

“I believe that the Philippines must continue to act prudently, deftly balancing competing powers, enhancing partnerships, and pursuing independently its national interest, to shape the future – a future where we are stable, secure and prosperous,” Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana stated during his keynote speech at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) Prospects Forum 2019 held in Makati City on January 17, 2019.

Speaking before the forum, Lorenzana identified three key security challenges that the Defense Department deals with, namely communist insurgency, violent extremism and terrorism in Mindanao, and the ongoing territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea with China.

The Defense Chief further enumerated measures or opportunities that can help address these concerns. With the pursuit of local peace talks, strengthened call for reintegration, and intensified military operations on the stronghold areas of the communist terrorist group, Lorenzana is optimistic that the communists will severely weaken this year.

“We are receiving encouraging results. The communist terrorist group is hemorrhaging. More rebels and their supporters now see the insincerity, duplicity and cunning of the CPP-NPA top leadership,” Lorenzana said. In addition, Lorenzana urged businesses and the private sector to stop providing ‘protection money’ to the CPP-NPA, and encouraged working closely with the military and police stationed in the area to combat these groups.

“I support the call of the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, General Ed Año. To local candidates, show your love for our country. Do not pay any permit to campaign fees. Stop funding the communist insurgents who do nothing but sow terror and anguish within our communities,” Lorenzana added.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana expressed optimism that the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao will bring significant progress in addressing violent extremism and terrorism. “Martial law enables law enforcement agencies, local officials and the Armed Forces to coordinate, collaborate and communicate efficiently and effectively,” he said.

Moreover, according to the Defense Chief, the successful rehabilitation of Marawi City, the outcome of the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite, and the operationalization of the trilateral partnership with Malaysia and Indonesia will be essential in enhancing the government’s overall strategy against violent extremism and terrorism, thereby preventing the resurgence of radical sentiments and bolster efforts in addressing transnational crimes in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea respectively.

Additionally, Lorenzana emphasized that the Philippines continues to view the arbitral tribunal ruling on the West Philippine Sea as valid and legitimate. “We have not, and we will not, surrender any part of our territory,” he stated.

The government has been exploring innovative approaches to manage the dispute and pursue constructive engagement with claimant countries. Currently, the Philippines pursues a functional cooperation with China and with other claimant countries. The government has also been firm on encouraging other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to finalize and adopt the ASEAN Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Additionally, the Armed Forces continue to maintain presence within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The military has been deploying personnel in the islands and features to establish maritime presence and maintain effective occupation.

Other keynote speakers during the event were Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Ex-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio–Morales, Philippine National Police Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, and Deputy Governor for the Monetary Stability Sector of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Diwa Guinigundo. DND