STOCK PHOTO | Image by Carlos Andrés Ruiz Palacio from Pixabay

THE PHILIPPINES is enforcing a strict gun licensing system, Trade officials told the United Nations (UN) on Wednesday, amid expectations of an uptick in gun-related violence as the campaign period for next year’s midterm elections draws near.

The country is working on an electronic licensing platform for firearms, Assistant Director Domina Pia Salazar told UN member-states in Geneva during a meeting on the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement on Thursday.

“The importance of transparency and good practices in reporting to build trust and confidence among states in preventing the proliferation and diversion of illicit arms were also underscored in the meetings,” it said.

The Philippines has grappled with rampant election-related violence through the years, usually between candidates from elite families.

Nineteen people died and 19 others were hurt in the village and youth council elections in October, according to the Commission on Elections.

The country ratified the Arms Trade Treaty in March 2022, which seeks to prevent illegal gun trading and regulate conventional firearms trade. It took effect three months later.

The country enacted the Strategic Trade Management Act in 2015, which set up the Department of Trade and Industry Strategic Trade Management Office, which issues import and export permits for conventional weapons.

Ms. Salazar said her office would work closely with the Philippine National Police’s Firearms and Explosives Office to monitor import and export permits for weapons.

Conventional weapons are widely used and designed for military purposes, without being classified as weapons of mass destruction, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime website. These include small and light guns, battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, missiles and missile launchers.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo in December said the country is pushing the creation of international guidelines on the ethical use of autonomous weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI), saying their improper use could risk innocent lives.

Autonomous weapons are programmed to kill a specific target. The weapon is deployed to an environment where its AI searches for the target using sensor data such as facial recognition, according to

The country is working with 14 other countries on a draft protocol and roadmap that will outlaw these weapon systems under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Mr. Manalo has said the Philippines is eyeing a nonpermanent seat in the 15-member UN Security Council in 2026, saying the country is qualified given its peace-building efforts. — John Victor D. Ordoñez