After six years in office, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will officially relinquish his post on June 30 but with a parting gift for all Filipinos – a stronger defense posture that will enable the protection of the country’s national interests, and respond effectively to domestic and global security challenges.

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (Photo courtesy of DND)

Prior to the current administration, the country has been plagued by problems on communist insurgency, terrorism, the deteriorating state of military assets and capabilities, and other security-related concerns.

The outgoing defense chief said the “most pressing” of the problems faced by the country today are communist insurgency and violent extremism.

Communist insurgency, terrorism, violent extremism

Through the DND, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted military operations that led to the dismantling of 56 out of 68 guerilla fronts (GFs) of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) from June 2016 to April 2022.

A total of 25,772 communist rebels and 2,290 violent extremists were either killed, arrested, or have surrendered to authorities as of April 30.

Meanwhile, 1,544 members of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), 971 members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and 1,427 members of Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) were also neutralized by the AFP.

Even the kidnappings perpetrated by the notorious ASG in Mindanao have been prevented by the AFP. In 2016, the ASG had 21 hostages but it has since gone down to zero as of 2022 after they were rescued by the military.

(Photo courtesy of DND)

“Perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments of the DND is the liberation of Marawi where we made accountable all of those who attacked the city in 2017. We were able to prevent the ISIS [ Islamic State] from establishing their base here in our country,” said Lorenzana, referring to the five-month urban war between the state forces against local and foreign terrorists led by the Maute Group and ASG.

The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in 2019 through the ratification and passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in 2018 also came to fruition under the current administration.

This paved the way for the normalization track of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was once a fierce enemy of the State. Under the normalization track, about 19,200 MILF combatants and 2,100 weapons were decommissioned by the government.

As of April 30, a total of 9,326 former rebels were provided with financial assistance; 30,009 surrenderees and their dependents have graduated in skills training; and 978 others have received housing assistance through the Enhanced Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP).

President Duterte also signed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 on July 3, 2020 to provide a stronger legal instrument for combatting terrorism; and Executive Order No. 70 in 2018 which harmonizes all efforts towards a united national peace framework through the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Modernization, WPS

Under Lorenzana’s helm, the DND also relentlessly pursued the professionalization, modernization, and development of the defense sector that steered the military to new heights through the acquisition of modern equipment for internal and external defense.

(Photo courtesy of DND)

Among these were two multi-role guided missile frigates – the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) – which were commissioned in 2020 and 2021 respectively, six units of Embraer A-29B Super Tucano close air support aircraft, 16 units of S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters; air surveillance radars, drones, missile systems, and various force protection and weapons systems.

“These new assets will further strengthen our humanitarian assistance and disaster response, air, maritime, and land defense as well as joint command and control capabilities,” Lorenzana said.

In six years, the AFP has also conducted 6,958 naval surface patrols and 6,432 air patrols in the country’s territory and borders, including in the hotly-contested West Philippine Sea (WPS).

(Photo courtesy of DND)

To expand maritime domain awareness in the WPS, the DND also built new structures on Pagasa (Thitu) Island in Kalayaan Island Group, Palawan. This includes a beaching ramp which was inaugurated in 2020, and an airstrip which is set to finish this month.

There were also improved structures in six other Philippine-occupied islands in WPS namely in Kota, Parola, Panata, Likas, Lawak, and Panguan to assert the country’s sovereignty and fortify the military’s defenses of the said areas.

“With these modern and multi-role assets added to the AFP’s inventory, as well as the capacity development and reforms we have instituted, we are hopeful that the defense sector’s trajectory will continue its upward momentum and lead to sustained peace and stability for the nation,” Lorenzana said.

“This is what we have accomplished. This is what we will pass down to the people and to the next administration. This is the legacy of President Duterte,” the outgoing Defense Chief added.

Source: Manila Bulletin (