Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (File photo)

MANILA – Outgoing Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has worked hard for the Philippines to attain a credible defense posture to protect its vast maritime territories.

"The Department also steadily worked towards achieving a credible defense posture through priority infrastructure development in the Municipality of Kalayaan, construction of maritime domain awareness platforms, heightened deployment of AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) detachments in border islands, and procurement of game-changing assets, such as combat utility helicopters, missile frigates, close air-support aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, air defense systems, various force protection equipment, and weapon systems," he said in a statement Friday.

Lorenzana also said the AFP also significantly stepped up its external defense operations to secure the country's strategic border areas and exclusive economic zone by increasing naval surface and maritime air patrols.

"With these modern and multi-role assets added to the AFP's inventory, together with the improvements 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," he added.

Lorenzana is also pleased to note that during his term the AFP launched sustained operations against the communist insurgents and violent extremists which led to the weakening of these pressing security threats.

"The DND, through the AFP, sustained operations that led to the weakening of the communist terrorist group and revitalization of the government’s reintegration program for former rebels and violent extremists. Since 2016, thousands of rebels, violent extremists, and their supporters have returned to the fold of the law, resulting in a major loss of their ground-level support," he added.

Lorenzana said the DND also prioritized international defense and security engagements, wherein agreements were forged with traditional and non-traditional security partners, which brought the Philippines closer to becoming a strategic player in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Under the Duterte administration, the DND further advanced good governance policies aimed at enhancing the organization’s capability to perform its mandate.

"In April this year, the President signed Republic Act 11709 prescribing fixed terms for key officers to further promote further professionalization and meritocracy in the AFP," Lorenzana said.

Under Republic Act 11709, only the best officers in the AFP can assume the highest posts in the military, he earlier said.

"The principal objective of this law is to allow general officers sufficient time, i.e., three years time-in-grade, to do their jobs. If they are not promoted to the next higher grade, they are retired. This ensures that only the best officers ascend the ladder of leadership. This also puts an end to the revolving door system in the AFP leadership that resulted from the retirement law passed in 1979," Lorenzana said.

Under the new law, the AFP chief-of-staff, vice chief-of-staff, deputy chief-of-staff, heads of the major services (Army, Navy and Air Force), unified command commanders, and inspector general will have a three-year term of office "unless sooner terminated by the President."

The President may extend the AFP chief-of-staff's tour of duty in times of war or other national emergencies declared by Congress. (PNA)