PHL needs to beef up defense vs cyber threats

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Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. Photo courtesy of dnd.gov.ph
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. Photo courtesy of dnd.gov.ph

By Priam F. Nepomuceno

MANILA, 3June2013 – With most of the countries worldwide have become dependent on information and communication technology, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin cited the need to improve the country’s defense against cyber threats.

He made this statement during the 12th Asia Security Summit Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore Sunday.

“As we become increasingly dependent on information and communication technology, we are also confronted with cyber threats. While cyber security previously focused only on individual hackers, recent trends show that attacks against government portals could come from organizations. Thus, we need to develop our cyber-related capabilities as we secure our channels of communication,” Gazmin stressed.

He added that adoption of such measures is needed now especially as the Asia Pacific region continues to demonstrate economic resilience.

“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that economic growth for Asia as a whole may reach up to 5.75 percent in 2013 and 6 percent in 2014. Intra-regional trade accounts for 20 percent of the region’s trade with the rest of the world, which helps the region withstand economic growth and promoting regional prosperity, it is our humble belief that the defense sector shares the responsibility of mitigating emerging regional security risks in order to provide an environment conducive to economic development,” the DND chief added.

Gazmin also said that the Philippines has three security trends to fully secure itself in the coming years.

These are are the emergence of previously dormant traditional security concerns; two, new aspects of recognized non-traditional security issues; and three, emerging security risks.”

“The regional security environment continues to evolve. More issues are becoming security concerns as they negatively affect our quality of life and limit our policy options,” he stated.

The first trend involves traditional security concerns, including territorial disputes, issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula, military modernization and arms race, and proliferation of weapons, which remain high in the regional security agenda.

According to Gazmin, sensitive issues placed in the back-burner in the past have re-emerged to take center stage.

This dispels notions that these issues have become irrelevant in the 21st century with the emergence of non-traditional security challenges.

“Given this, while sensitive issues will not be resolved overnight, it would be timely for states to cooperate in finding means to achieve long-lasting regional stability through mechanisms provided by international law, with the hope of settling these issues with a sense of finality,” he stated.

On the second trend, Gazmin said a number of issues, including maritime security, disaster response, and cyber security, have been recognized as security issues. However, new aspects of these issues have emerged, which would have implications on defense establishments.

While maritime security from a defense standpoint used to be about protecting a nation’s territorial waters, the DND chief said issues such as illegal fishing, piracy, smuggling, and poaching, among others now makes it necessary for the military to work closely with maritime law enforcement agencies.

He said in the case of the Philippines, the National Coast Watch System, where the Philippine Navy is a member, was established in 2011 to promote synergy among different maritime agencies and pursue a comprehensive approach to maritime security.

On disaster response and risk mitigation, Gazmin said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the defense department have taken a more pro-active role.

He cited a partnership forged by DND and AFP with other government agencies under the National Convergence Initiative (NCI), which aims to develop selected military reservations into tree nurseries and plantations. This is to minimize the risks of disasters by preventing soil erosion.

The third trend, he said, involves issues that are not entirely new but are increasingly becoming a concern for all government agencies, including the defense sector. These are food, water and energy security; and migration.

“The scarcity of strategic resources, such as food and water, can eventually cause domestic instability as well as international conflict given the competition for limited resources,” Gazmin stated.

According to defense chief, the AFP has been normally involved in securing critical infrastructures of energy resources.

But today, he added that the military need to be aware of the implications of climate change on food security and the risk of water contamination.

On migration, Gazmin said while is has been considered an economic and cultural concern, it also possess a security challenge noting that illegal migration highlights the porousness of borders and the deficiency of border security patrols.

The DND chief added that legal migration is a concern as large inflows of immigrants can overwhelm the absorptive capacity of receiving states.

“Sending states face the risk of having their migrants abroad exposed to potential harm or used as leverage by other groups in the host country to achieve political ends,” stated Gazmin.

As a sending state, he said the Philippine government continues to monitor regional and global events that have implications on Filipino communities.

“In view of the number of new security risks, defense establishments now face a paradox. The emergence of security issues compels defense forces to address them but doing so could induce them to lose sight of their primary competence,” he stated.

“The challenge, therefore, is how to broaden skill sets while maintaining proficiency in the core competence of defense forces given our limited material and human resources,” he went on to say, adding:

“To do this, the DND has put in place a system to effectively manage its limited resources in a timely and cost-efficient manner, identify and meet prioritized need, and make the necessary budget allocations. (PNA)

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