MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said strengthening the country’s defense posture is not only meant to prepare for confrontation but also to ensure peace and stability.
Speaking in a forum at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), Romualdez emphasized the decision of the House of Representatives to boost support for the government’s security agencies by providing bigger funds to them through the realignment of some confidential funds from civilian government agencies to intensify the protection of the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
“This allocation demonstrates our dedication to maintaining a strong and credible defense posture, one that sends a clear message that we will not compromise when it comes to safeguarding our national interests. We must remember that a strong defense is not merely a tool for confrontation, but a means to uphold peace, stability, and the rule of law,” he told members and guests of forum organizer NDCP Alumni Association.
“Make no mistake about it. The House of Representatives fully supports the position of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. that we should continue to assert our sovereignty in the West Philippine Seas and that we should defend every inch of our territory,” he added.
Romualdez explained that the House understands the current global challenges the country is facing, including the dangers confronting the military, especially in guarding the WPS.
“The House of Representatives, fully aware of the weight of this responsibility, has been unyielding in its commitment to fortify the operational capabilities of our Armed Forces. We have embarked on a strategic journey, not only to modernize our military assets but also to ensure that our personnel are equipped with the fortitude of skill and the assurance of a nation’s unwavering support,” he said.
“Your Representatives in the 19th Congress fully support the increased allocation for the defense sector under the proposed PHP5.768-trillion 2024 national budget to bolster the country’s capability in protecting its territorial integrity. Our commitment to safeguarding our territorial integrity and ensuring the safety of our citizens remains unwavering,” he added.
He disclosed that before the House approved the 2024 General Appropriations Bill, there already was a consensus among party leaders at the lower chamber to put more funding for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and other defense offices by channelling the confidential fund of civilian government agencies that do not have a mandate to investigate or do surveillance.
On October 10, the small committee assigned by the House formally removed P1.23 billion worth of confidential fund requests for 2024 from 11 different agencies that included the Office of the Vice President: (P500 million), Department of Information and Communications Technology (P300 million), Department of Education (P150 million), Department of Agriculture (P50 million), and Department of Foreign Affairs (P50 million.)
Romualdez also enumerated that aside from boosting the security budgets for next year, the House have likewise been working on legislations seeking to improve the defense sectors’ working conditions and reinforce “the foundations of our military’s operational capabilities.”
These proposed measures, he said, are:
- House Bill No. 6517, which provides measure to strengthen professionalism and modernization in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. last May 5)
- House Bill No. 11, which is a proposal seeking to develop capability and establish expeditious transformation of the Department of National Defense and its Bureaus (under committee deliberation and may be sent to the plenary according to Romualdez)
- House Bill No. 7764, which seeks to establish a Special Defense Economic Zone inside the Government Arsenal Defense Industrial Estate in Bataan (approved on third reading)
- House Bill No. 6375 or the proposed Defense Acquisition Act of 2022 (pending with the committee on national defense and security)
- House Bill No. 8969 or the proposed Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension System Act (approved on third reading)
“But what does all this mean for our future, for the peace we so dearly pursue? It means that as we chart the course for tomorrow, we do so with the confidence that comes from a military that is not only capable and well-equipped but also respected and cared for,” Romualdez said.
“It means that as we navigate the complexities of geopolitical negotiations, we do so with the assurance that our armed forces stand ready to uphold our sovereignty with honor and integrity,” he added.