Jose Faustino Jr. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army)

MANILA – Incoming Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. has vowed to enhance the military's defense capabilities and ensure that "not a single square inch of the [Philippine] territory is surrendered" once he takes over the post in November.

This aligns with the vision of the President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. of a stronger and better Philippines, he said.

"National security is synonymous to human security. That is why we will do our best that all programs of the department will focus on protecting and defending the sovereignty of the country, to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, address the root causes of internal conflict, and make sure to implement the order of the President that 'not a single square inch of the territory is surrendered’," Faustino said.

The Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program is divided into three tranches. The first was implemented from 2013 to 2017, the second from 2018 to 2022 and the third from 2023 to 2028.

Equipment acquired in these programs are aimed at beefing up the country's external defense capabilities.

"We are now on the Third Horizon of the AFP modernization -- building a more reliable and credible AFP in strengthening territorial or external defense capability. We will ensure the smooth implementation of the AFP Modernization (Program) and will even enhance our capability in defending our territory," he said in a message to reporters Sunday.

The DND will also address the country's major concerns and security challenges, such as climate change and natural disasters, terrorism, support to law enforcement to address criminality, illegal drugs and cyber security.

He assured the public that the campaign to end the local communist armed conflict, started by the Duterte administration, would continue under Marcos.

"We will likewise continuously support the successful programs of the peace agreement with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front)," Faustino said.

Faustino will assume as Defense secretary on November 13, after the one-year appointment ban on retired military officials.

Faustino took over the AFP leadership from Gen. Cirilito Sobejana who retired from military service on July 31, 2021.

He retired as AFP chief after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 on November 12 of the same year.

Prior to his assumption as the 56th AFP chief-of-staff, Faustino was the head of the Joint Task Force Mindanao and has also served as the acting commanding general of the Philippine Army.

He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1988. (PNA)