DND officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. on Monday said he will do everything in his authority to ensure that the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty are protected.

This is foremost in Faustino's 10-point agenda which seeks to align the department's policies with President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s promise of a stronger and better Philippines through national unity, nation-building, and economic recovery.

Faustino, in a statement Monday, said the DND shall strengthen its efforts to protect Philippine territory pursuant to the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration decision on the South China Sea which ruled in favor of Manila.

“Our President has declared on several occasions that our sovereignty is sacred and inviolable, and not a square inch of what is ours will be ceded to anyone,” he added.

Faustino also said they will beef up cooperation with the country's various allies and partners in the local and international arena to achieve this.

“We shall heighten our cooperation with state and non-state partners to improve domain awareness and maritime security, as well as pursue engagements in the international arena to advance our interests on defense and security,” he added.

Faustino also said the DND will sustain the whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approaches to ensure internal stability.

“The department shall actively support the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict)," he added.

Faustino said it is only by ending the five-decade communist-driven terrorism that the country can attain economic growth and development.

In pursuit of the aspiration for national unity and reconciliation, the DND will also sustain its support for peace-building, especially in Mindanao.

“In performing these functions, we will uphold and adhere to human rights principles, international law, and the rule of law,” Faustino said.

The DND officer-in-charge also put premium on disaster resilience and climate change adaptation.

“We shall pursue the department’s efforts in strengthening institutions for disaster resilience by supporting the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR),” he added.

The DND shall also actively contribute to the government’s efforts on cybersecurity, promoting measures and initiatives that will address emerging and escalating cyber threats.

This means that building the cyber defense capabilities and infrastructures of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be prioritized.

To achieve sufficient capability readiness, Faustino said the DND will continue to pursue the Revised AFP Modernization Program (RAFPMP).

“The DND will request Congress for a Sunset Review of the RAFPMP, as required by RA (Republic Act) 10349, to allow our legislators to better appreciate the Program, apprise them of ways forward, and generate Congressional support for Horizon Three,” he added.

The third Horizon of the RAFPMP shall focus on achieving a Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program through the institutionalization of in-country production, transfer of technology, and other innovative arrangements in various procurement projects under the AFPMP.

“The jointness among the AFP Major Services must be ensured in all aspects of capability development... The department shall pursue the realization of its modernization projects, especially on materiel defense capability focused on territorial and external defense, and achieving SRDP,” Faustino said.

To complement organizational efforts to effectively address various defense and security challenges, the DND shall pursue international defense and security engagements that are consistent with the President’s directives, the country’s foreign policy, and various policy instruments that advance the nation’s interests.

The DND shall also advocate the strengthening of the Reserve Force as force multipliers in addressing various security challenges.

In recognition of the importance of the youth in nation-building, the DND will also provide appropriate recommendations for the revival of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in the school curriculum.

“The DND will ensure that strict accountability measures will be in place to prevent the repeat of unfortunate circumstances that led to the abolition of the ROTC Program many years ago,” Faustino said.

Other priority policies laid down by the DND chief include ensuring the welfare of soldiers, veterans, and civilians; and advocating for various timely and necessary legal and legislative agendas that will contribute to peace and security for the nation.

These efforts in the 10-point agenda aim to build “a united DND that is not only formidable but can readily thrive under the direst of circumstances,” Faustino said.

“Let us bear in mind that the antidote to collective weakness and the malady of disunity is ‘unity -- the wellspring of boundless possibility for the country,” he said. (PNA)