The government recently published a National Security Strategy (NSS) for the first time, prepared by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon and quarterbacked by Undersecretary Vic Agdamag. President Rodrigo Duterte signed the document on May 16, which outlines the administration’s plans for a “secure, peaceful, modern, and prosperous Philippines.
In his message, President Duterte stressed that “We will bolster our position in the community of nations by strengthening diplomatic relations with our traditional allies, engaging non-traditional partners and pursuing an independent foreign policy that gives primacy to our national interest.”
The NSS flows through from the 2017-2022 National Security Policy (NSP) of the Duterte administration. The NSP is a comprehensive document that addresses national security concerns by calling for improvements in defense, intelligence, and law enforcement capabilities to address the communist insurgency, terrorism, violent extremism and protecting the country’s sovereign rights in the South China Sea (SCS).
We’ve named our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as a protective measure by delineating its boundaries apart and distinct from the rest of the SCS in conformity with UNCLOS. This was acknowledged in the July 2016 landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which China refuses to acknowledge as it continues to claim the SCS in its entirety. President Duterte has pledged to raise the arbitral ruling with China at the right time.
NSS 2018 integrates the country’s major security policies, goals, responsibilities, and courses of action into a roadmap to attain the vision of a better Philippines in all respects for all Filipinos. It’s also a blueprint that points the way to better coordination, cohesion, and synchronization of government functions to improve efficiency and maximize the use of limited resources.
NSS 2018 articulates the national interest, conveys the State’s intentions, and rallies public support for government’s policies and programs. Congressional backing is crucial to its success in terms of enacting necessary legislation in a timely manner and provide appropriate funding.
The landmark document has 7 parts. Chapter 1 introduces the concept of national security and the overarching national security framework that shows the NSP and NSS as inseparable components. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the current strategic environment and highlights our national security priorities to address internal and security threats and challenges.
Chapter 3 discusses the national security framework, core values, and national interests underpinning the NSS. It begins with the definition of national security as “the state or condition wherein the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; the people’s wellbeing; core values and way of life; and the State and its institutions are protected and enhanced.”
This chapter cites 12 national security goals as the bases for government action:
• Guarantee public safety and achieve good governance.
• Mitigate the impact of health-related threats.
• Develop a dynamic, inclusive and sustainable economy.
• Achieve food and water security.
• Safeguard and preserve national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
• Heighten consciousness and pride in our heritage, culture and values.
• Promote human and ecological security.
• Achieve energy security.
• Ensure maritime and airspace security.
• Strengthen international relations.
• Provide strong cyber infrastructure and cyber security.
• Improve vital transportation infrastructure and port security.
Chapter 4 introduces two important components that will guide the strategy’s successful and sustained implementation.
First is the combined, balanced, and effective use of the instruments of national power, namely: political and legal; diplomatic; informational; intelligence; economic; military; and law enforcement. It aims to promote comprehensive and shared efforts in addressing current and future threats and challenges. Second is wealth creation and resource generation through: intensified human capital development, passage of national security legislation, appropriate funding for national security and the development of strategic industries.
The attainment of the 12-point national security agenda hinges on the successful execution of the strategic lines of action enumerated in Chapter 5. The action lines are designed to improve our defenses, capabilities, technologies, processes, partnerships and resources. A total of 109 strategic lines of action were identified following careful analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities of the nation.
Chapter 6 tackles the necessity for an enhanced national security organization to successfully execute the lines of action. As such, the NSS endeavors to reinvigorate and streamline the existing national security structure for effective command and control and utilization of limited human and other government resources, by reorganizing the National Security Council (NSC); its Secretariat; the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace; the National Intelligence Board and the National Intelligence Committee.
The NSS concludes with Chapter 7 with a call for national unity because national security is everyone’s responsibility.
The Executive Summary ends on this note: “The NSS is still in its nascent stage and should be treated as a work-in-progress. Hopefully, this NSS will set the stage for the formation of a national consensus and national will toward the attainment of peace and prosperity across the country. To this end, the support and cooperation of the Filipino people are paramount.”
I have a personal stake in the NSS. Along with my colleagues in the Committee on National Security — Babes Flores, Ed Adan, Chuck Agustin, the late Fr. Archie Intengan, Art Lomibao, Vidal Querol, Enrique Galang — of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations chaired by Ambassador Joe Romero, we assisted the Office of the National Security Adviser in formulating NSS 2018.
Of particular interest to me all these years has been “credible deterrence” that aims to strengthen our internal and external defenses. President Duterte has to-date approved defense spending to almost P300 billion, or four times more than the previous administration. He’s rolled up his sleeves to ensure that the elements needed to achieve the national security vision are met.
Unity and execution are crucial to success and NSS 2018 points the way forward. It requires from us a keen sense of nationhood; clear sense of common purpose; and a compelling sense of urgency to secure ourselves far into the future. Kayang-kaya kung sama-sama!
Rafael M. Alunan Iii served as Secretary of Tourism in the Corazon C. Aquino administration and as Secretary of the Interior and Local Government in the Fidel V. Ramos administration. He currently chairs the Committee on National Security of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations.