Faustino prioritizes protection of PH territory in DND’s 10-point agenda

Department of National Defense (DND) Officer-in-Charge Jose Faustino Jr. issued Monday, July 18, a 10-point agenda which shall serve as his guidelines to align the department’s policies with the present administration’s promise of a “stronger and better Philippines.”

Department of National Defense (DND) Officer-in-Charge Jose Faustino Jr. visits the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on July 6, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Faustino said that the 10-point agenda underscored the development of the organization’s capacity to operate across an entire spectrum of operations and deal with the multifaceted nature of national security.

On top of the list is the importance of upholding the nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its interests in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), through strengthened efforts to protect these areas pursuant to the 2016 Award on the South China Sea Arbitration.

“Our President has declared on several occasions that our sovereignty is sacred and inviolable, and not a square inch of what is ours will be ceded to anyone,” Faustino said.

“We shall heighten our cooperation with state and non-state partners to improve domain awareness and maritime security, as well as pursue engagements in the international arena to advance our interests on defense and security,” he added.

The country maintains nine military detachments in the WPS which is part of the vast South China Sea (SCS). Majority of the areas in SCS is being claimed by China while other claimant countries also declare sovereignty over certain areas in the hotly contested waters.

But in 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated Beijing’s claims in the SCS in favor of the Philippines’ petition. The decision, however, is not honored by the Asian superpower as it continues to build and militarize artificial islands in the region.

Other priorities 
Meanwhile, Faustino listed communist insurgency as the second most important agenda of the DND, noting that the DND will support the initiatives of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

To ensure internal stability, Faustino said that the DND shall sustain the whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approaches in addressing communist rebellion. 

These are the same strategies that he used to address insurgency during his stint as the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under the administration of former President Duterte. It basically means that all government agencies and concerned stakeholders should work together to defeat communist groups.

To achieve sufficient capability readiness, Faustino also pledged to continue pursuing the revised modernization program of the AFP which is on the tail-end of its second horizon this year and ahead of the beginning of the third horizon in 2023.

The third horizon will focus on achieving a Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program through the institutionalization of in-country production, transfer of technology, and other innovative arrangements, Faustino said.

The DND head also put premium on disaster resilience and climate change adaptation, noting how the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) needs to be upgraded to a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) so that the government could keep up with the growing demands of disaster response.

Other priorities include sustaining the peacebuilding efforts in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro region; strengthening the reserve force of the AFP; ensuring the welfare of soldiers, veterans and civilians; contributing to the government’s cyber security measures; and developing the military’s space capabilities; and pursuing international defense and security engagements that are ”consistent” to the administration’s foreign policy.