Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Center) responds to questions together with SJPC cabinet secretaries and officials during the open forum at the ‘Pamana ng Pagbabago: The 2021 Pre-SONA Forums' in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo on 21 July 2021.
Citing government reforms for just and lasting peace, Secretary of National Defense (SND) Delfin Lorenzana underscored the legacy of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Security, Justice and Peace Cabinet Cluster (SJPC) during the “Pamanang Kaligtasan at Kapayapaan” edition of ‘Pamana ng Pagbabago: The 2021 Pre-SONA Forums' held on 21 July 2021.
As SJPC Chairperson, Secretary Lorenzana led Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr., and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexi Nograles in presenting their cluster’s legacy at the forum, in the lead up to President Duterte’s sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 26 July 2021.
He highlighted the significant gains in the strategic priorities of the Department of National Defense (DND). Despite its being at the forefront of the country’s COVID-19 containment and recovery efforts, the DND continues to ensure the security of the country from both internal and external threats through effective reforms and strengthening of the military’s defense posture.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has upgraded its systems, updated its doctrines, and acquired capital assets and vital equipment. The AFP’s new acquisitions are now used in territorial defense, counterinsurgency, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations, the Secretary reported at the forum.
The SND also mentioned that the Department has consistently asserted the Philippines’ sovereignty and sovereign rights in compliance with President Duterte’s orders to defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas.
The SND cited the Department’s territorial defense efforts such as infrastructure development in Kalayaan and Mavulis islands, the AFP’s intensified conduct of deterrence activities in strategic border-areas through increased air patrols and sea patrols and the deployment of more personnel in our borders, especially in the West Philippine Sea and the Sulu-Celebes Seas.
“We now have more littoral monitoring stations and detachments in strategic locations to monitor vessels transiting within Philippine waters and key Sea Lanes of Communication,” Secretary Lorenzana said.
He also cited the gains in the whole of government approach in addressing insurgency. “By offering social assistance to rebels who return to the fold of the law, we have greatly reduced threats from armed groups which have been hampering inclusive economic growth for more than fifty years now,” he said. Because of the success of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program and Task Force Balik-Loob, government assistance to former rebels is now also extended in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The inclusive and holistic strategy of the government is also best reflected in the structure of the inter-agency task force, national task force, and the NTF COVID-19 clusters according to Secretary Lorenzana. He added that the SJPC member-agencies lead in accelerating the implementation of the country’s vaccination program.
“Ayon sa direktiba ng Pangulo, layunin nating mabigyan ng ligtas, epektibo, at libreng bakuna ang lahat ng Pilipino,” he said further.
As of July 19, the country has received close to 28 million anti-covid vaccine doses, over 15.1 million of which have been administered nationwide. A total of 10.4 million Filipinos have received their first doses, while 4.7 million are now fully vaccinated.
With the vaccination program implementation on track, Secretary Lorenzana looks forward to a better Christmas for the country this year.
During the open forum, the SND said that the biggest accomplishment or legacy that President Duterte will be leaving with the defense department is the procurement of military assets and the improvement of the capabilities of the AFP. “We had a lot of procurement or assets procured during his time and in addition to that, he has also ordered us to improve our operations against the CPP-NPA and the terrorist groups in Muslim Mindanao and when he leaves office, 11 months from now, we expect that the CPP-NPA will be downgraded into just, maybe a law enforcement problem.”
In the virtual press conference that was held after the Pre-SONA forum, the SND gave updates on the developments in the international defense and security relations of the Department. One of the questions he addressed was about the status of the Visiting Forces Agreement saying that an addendum to the VFA which are provisions for the implementation of the agreement is now under study. He expressed confidence that this will be approved by the president. He also gave updates on the upcoming official visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on 29-30 July 2021.