MANILA – Since being appointed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as Secretary of National Defense in 2016, retired Army General Delfin Lorenzana will formally step down as head of the DND (Department of National Defense) on June 30.
Known for his strong record in public service, the 73-year-old Chief of Defense has established a “legacy” epitomized by a modernized and highly functional defense configuration that will allow for the protection of the country’s national interests and effectively respond to land and global security challenges.
“I want to be remembered as the Secretary of Defense who knew how to make a difference: improving the organization of Defense for the good of the country”, explains the retired general.
‘Modernization and Development’
Over the past six years, the DND has relentlessly pursued the modernization and development of the Department of Defense to optimize the procedure for responding to domestic and global security challenges. New defense capabilities were created and military resources were significantly increased.
Among the step-ups were two multi-role guided missile frigates – the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) – which were commissioned in 2020 and 2021, respectively, six Embraer A-29B units. Super Tucano close air support aircraft, 16 S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopter units; aerial surveillance radars, drones, missile systems and various protection systems and force weapons.
“These new assets will further strengthen our humanitarian assistance and disaster response, air, sea and land defense, as well as joint command and control capabilities,” said Lorenzana.
The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) also carried out 6,958 naval surface patrols and 6,432 air patrols in the country’s territory and borders, including in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS).
To expand maritime domain knowledge in the MDs, DND also built new structures on Pagasa Island (Thitu) in the Kalayaan Islands Group, Palawan. This includes a grounding ramp opening in 2020 and an airstrip due to be completed this month.
There were also improvements in structures on six other islands occupied by the Philippines in WPS, namely Kota, Parola, Panata, Likas, Lawak and Panguan, to assert the sovereignty of the country and strengthen the military defenses of those areas.
“With these modern, multi-purpose assets added to the AFP inventory, as well as the capacity development and reforms we have instituted, we look forward to the defense sector’s trajectory continuing its upward momentum and leading to sustained peace and stability for the nation. ”, said Lorenzana.
‘Countermeasures: Insurgency, Terrorism and Extremism’
The DND, through AFP, has supported counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations through the effective application of a collaborative “whole nation” approach to ending local armed conflicts.
Furthermore, through the government’s reintegration program, thousands of rebels and their supporters have returned to the rule of law, indicating the widespread loss of ground-level support for CTGs (communist terrorist groups) and LTGs (local terrorist groups).
AFP carried out military operations that led to the dismantling of 56 of the 68 guerrilla fronts (GFs) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) from June 2016 to April 2022 .
A total of 25,772 communist rebels and 2,290 violent extremists were killed, arrested or handed over to authorities as of April 30.
Meanwhile, 1,544 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), 971 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and 1,427 members of the Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) were also neutralized by AFP.
The AFP even prevented the kidnappings carried out by the notorious ASG in Mindanao.
In 2016, the ASG had 21 hostages, but since 2022 it has dropped to zero after the military rescued them.
“Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the DND is the liberation of Marawi, where we hold accountable all those who attacked the city in 2017. We managed to prevent the Islamic State ISIS from establishing its base here in our country,” he said. Lorenzana, referring to the five-month urban warfare between state forces against local and foreign terrorists led by Grupo Maute and ASG.
The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in 2019 through the ratification and approval of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in 2018 also came to fruition under the current administration.
This paved the way for the normalization path of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was once a fierce enemy of the state. Under the normalization track, the government decommissioned around 19,200 MILF fighters and 2,100 weapons.
As of April 30, 9,326 former rebels have received financial assistance; 30,009 surrendered and their dependents graduated in training; and another 978 received housing assistance through the Enhanced Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP).
President Duterte also signed the Anti-Terrorism Act 2020 on July 3, 2020, to provide a stronger legal instrument to fight terrorism; and Executive Order No. 70 in 2018, which harmonizes all efforts towards a unified national peace framework through the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“This is what we got. This is what we are going to pass on to the people and to the next government. This is President Duterte’s legacy,” added the Defense Chief.
Since taking office, Lorenzana can already consider her “mission accomplished”, as she has achieved all her “goals” with the support of the “One Defense Team” strategy.
In addition, the modernization and professionalization of military and civilian offices epitomizes its achievements, enabling the defense sector to effectively respond to domestic and global security challenges and advance national interests.