Secretary of National Defense Delfin N Lorenzana spoke at the NDCP Defense Forum held on 02 July 2020.
The forum, organized by the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) in partnership with the NDCP Alumni Association Inc (NDCPAAI), was held online.
Secretary Lorenzana’s talk focused on national security situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
He discussed the recent developments and prospects in the West Philippine Sea, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), terrorism, communist insurgency and containment and recovery efforts of the Department of National Defense (DND) in relation to COVID-19, among other security issues.
He stated that DND provided security, logistical, and peacekeeping efforts to expedite government initiatives against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Defense Chief said, “Our national efforts have minimized the mortality rate, thanks to the health workers and their scientific approach.”
He also shared that the National Task Force for COVID-19, which he chairs, will come up with an updated national action plan to focus on easing lockdown and returning the economy to some normalcy.
Discussing the West Philippine Sea, Secretary Lorenzana expressed concern about the reported possibility of China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea.
“There is no need for China to do that because the South China Sea is a global common where anybody can pass through,” he said.
On the deferment of VFA termination, he said that it is a development towards balancing of power in the West Philippines Sea. He clarified that there is no VFA re-negotiation going on between the Philippines and the United States.
On internal security, Secretary Lorenzana emphasized that the government is committed to the growth of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
He said that despite having a BARMM, terrorist elements continue to instigate violent activities and recruit young Muslims.
He said that the government was undertaking interagency coordination and stakeholder engagement to deradicalize the young.
He said, “Preventing and countering violent extremism includes orienting uniformed personnel about ideology and cultural sensitivity in order to provide context to the phenomenon of terrorism.”
Secretary Lorenzana acknowledged that there are valid concerns about the effect of the Anti-Terrorism Law. He said that the possibility of abuse was there, as with any other law.
He allayed fears by saying that safeguards are in the same law. He argued that there is a need for “more teeth” to enable law enforcement agencies to address the threat of terrorism.
NDCP President BGen Archimedes H Viaje AFP (Ret) AFP, PhD, MNSA, CESE and NDCPAAI President Dr Benjamin I Espiritu MNSA in their respective remarks thanked Secretary Lorenzana for gracing the NDCP Defense Forum’s 3rd iteration.
Dr Cesar B Chavez MNSA moderated the forum.
The forum drew 194 participants composed of NDCP officials, faculty and alumni, government officials, and members of the Master in National Security Administration (MNSA) Regular Class 55.
Representatives from the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) and the Defense Press Corps (DPC) also attended the forum.
The NDCP is the government’s highest center for education, training and research on defense and national security. It conducts the one-year MNSA program. It provides venue for strategic discussions on defense and security issues.