(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) has assured it is ready to implement the mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, in coordination with partner agencies.

In a statement on Saturday, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. expressed his appreciation to legislators, led by Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who are pushing for the law.

“We commit to take an active part in the legislative process through our full cooperation and inputs, whenever and wherever they are needed," Galvez said.

He said the DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), along with the Commission on Higher Education and supporting agencies, have already proposed a concept on how the ROTC program would run.

"We can implement it using a phased approach wherein we will have pilot and simulation runs in selected universities, while preparing our personnel, logistical and budgetary requirements for its full implementation," Galvez said.

In a nutshell, the implementation will consist of preparation; curriculum development; selection and training of implementers; personnel, logistics and budget planning; selection of pilot volunteer schools based on results of evaluation of their facilities and capacities; pilot programs and simulation in volunteer schools; expansion to regions; progressive implementation; evaluation and further fine-tuning; and full implementation in all schools.

The projected timeline from the enactment of the law to initial implementation will be two to three years while full implementation can be done in five years.

The DND and AFP intend to harness the expertise of the Regional Community Defense Groups of the Philippine Army, Air Reserve Centers of the Philippine Air Force and Naval Reserve Centers of the Philippine Navy in managing the ROTC program.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. himself favors the return of the mandatory ROTC to help bolster the country’s capability in dealing with disasters.

He said while Filipinos are always ready to help in times of disasters, those who respond must be properly trained and equipped with knowledge and skills in disaster response.

During Wednesday's hearing, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian assured the military and DND of budgetary and logistical support while Dela Rosa and Senator Francis Tolentino said reservists can be tapped as ROTC instructors.

In December last year, the House of Representatives approved a measure that would establish a two-year mandatory National Citizens Service Training program and an optional four-year ROTC program. (PNA)