MANILA, Philippines – The proposed Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program can be fully implemented in five years, newly appointed Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Saturday, January 28.
“The projected timeline from enactment of the law to initial implementation is 2-3 years, while full implementation can be done in 5 years.”
The defense chief, who is also a retired military general, said the DND, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Commission on Higher Education, and other relevant agencies have already come up with the concept of how the proposed program would be implemented.
“We can implement this 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 explained.
According to him, the first phase will be the preparation stage, which will include: curriculum development, selection and training of implementers, personnel, logistics, and budget planning. Also included is the “selection of pilot volunteer schools based on results of evaluation of their facilities and capacities.”
Afterward, the program will be implemented in this order:
- Pilot programs, simulation in volunteered schools
- Expansion to different regions
- Progressive implementation
- Evaluation and further fine-tuning
- Full implementation in all schools
The defense chief, who also oversees the military, added the Regional Community Defense Groups of the Philippine Army, Air Reserve Centers of the Philippine Air Force, and the Naval Reserve Centers of the Philippine Navy would be used to manage the ROTC program.
At present, the ROTC is a voluntary program for college students that seeks to produce military reservists.
It used to be mandatory but this was scrapped in 2002 following the death of Mark Welson Chua, a University of Santo Tomas student, who exposed the ROTC’s alleged corruption. The ROTC became optional through Republic Act No. 9163 or the National Service Training Program Act of 2001.
The revival of mandatory ROTC came after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pushed to make the program a requirement for senior high students during his first State of the Nation Address in 2022. Various organizations, including youth groups, have slammed the proposal, saying it would be an “added burden to the students.”
Instead of the ROTC, the lower chamber passed a bill in December 2022 seeking to require college students to undergo a two-year mandatory National Citizens Service Training (NCST). The NCST program will focus on disaster response and management, survival and safety techniques, and civic duty inculcation.
Response to Dela Rosa?
In his statement, Galvez also said he appreciated the “enthusiasm” of former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief turned Senator Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa in pushing for the ROTC.
“The DND fully supports and greatly appreciates the enthusiasm of our legislators led by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa in pushing for the law, and we commit to take an active part in the legislative process through our full cooperation and inputs, whenever and wherever they are needed.”
The defense chief also “assured” Dela Rosa that the DND would be ready to immediately implement the program once the law was passed.
“We assure Senator dela Rosa and our distinguished lawmakers that we will be ready to start the program when the law is passed and it will be diligently implemented in coordination with our partner agencies and institutions including the private sector organizations in order to ensure its success,” Galvez said.
His statement came exactly three days after Dela Rosa was annoyed during a Senate hearing that discussed the ROTC program. During the hearing, DND Undersecretary Franco Nemesio Gacal gave a reality check and said that to implement the program, the military would need to mobilize around 9,000 to 10,000 personnel for about 2,400 colleges and universities.
Irked by Gacal’s remarks, Dela Rosa said he did not like the attitude of the DND official.
Galvez and Dela Rosa have ties because they both worked under former president Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet. Dela Rosa served as Duterte’s PNP chief while Galvez was the adviser for the peace process. – Rappler.com
Lawmakers should urgently adopt and implement the ROTC program. The program is a step in the right direction towards building a credible military needed to enforce sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.
The size of a nation’s gun barrel makes an aggressor pause. Notice how China has been less assertive operating in the Natunas, which Indonesia claims is within its EEZ. Indonesia has the strongest military in the ASEAN: 400,000 armed personnel, 130 combat aircrafts (including Russian Su-35s and American F16s), and 245 naval vessels (including 7 frigates with blue water capabilities). In case of an armed confrontation in the Natunas, China will surely prevail over Indonesia but not without without incurring serious pain.
China blatantly enters and exploits the Philippine EEZ because it can, knowing full well that the Philippines is militarily feeble. Politicians should hear Lee Kwan Yu’s rationale for a capable armed forces: “Without] a strong defence, there will be no Singapore. It will become a satellite, cowed and intimidated by its neighbours.”