Keynote Speech: 21st ASEAN Regional Forum Heads of Defense Universities/Colleges/Institutions Meeting

September 18, 2017

Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda, MNSA
Opening Ceremony of the
21st ASEAN Regional Forum Heads of Defense Universities/Colleges/Institutions Meeting
“Defense Diplomacy Through Education and Research:
Building Confidence, Enhancing Engagement”
18 September 2017 | Sofitel Philippine Plaza

The Chair of the 21st ASEAN Regional Forum for Heads of Defense Universities/Colleges/Institutions Meeting (ARF-HDUCIM) and President of the National Defense College of the Philippines, Rear Admiral Roberto Q. Estioko,

The Co-Chair of the 21st ARF HDUCIM and the President of the National Institute For Defense Studies, Japan, Mr. Tatsuo Yamamoto,

The ARF Heads of Defense Universities/Colleges/ Institutions and members of their delegations,

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

A pleasant morning to all of you.

As an alumna of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), I am deeply honored to address this 21st ASEAN Regional Forum of Heads of Defense Universities, Colleges and Institutions. Even if I am in the midst of hearings for the 2018 national budget as the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, it is essential to be here with all of you who have converged in Manila to share knowledge and best practices and to fortify cooperation in defense and security education.

The 21st ARF HDUCIM is held at a time when Southeast Asia, and the broader Asia-Pacific region, celebrates a historical milestone.

This year marks the golden jubilee of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

For fifty years, ASEAN has served as a catalyst of peace, stability, growth, and prosperity in the region. The Bangkok Declaration of 1967, which founded ASEAN, underscored that in “an increasingly interdependent world, the cherished ideals of peace, freedom, social justice and economic well-being are best attained by fostering good understanding, good neighbourliness and meaningful cooperation among the countries of the region.” ASEAN, as its founders envisioned it, is doing just that. Anchored on the political-security, economic, and socio-cultural pillars, ASEAN is building a community in which nations live in harmony, security, and development.

Beyond the immediate Southeast Asian region, ASEAN is at the forefront in shaping the multilateral architecture of greater Asia Pacific. Guided by the principle of open regionalism, ASEAN’s goal is to promote an inclusive political, economic, and security environment, where every country, regardless of size, wealth, or status, plays a key role in reaching the region’s full potential. The ASEAN regional forum founded in 1994 is a testament to this diplomatic resolve. Indeed, chairing ASEAN on this auspicious occasion is truly a distinct honor and privilege for the Philippines.

Inspired by the organization’s success in fostering a platform for dialogue and cooperation, the Philippines has chosen the theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.”

Fleshing out this theme and to contribute in addressing regional concerns on a whole range of issues, I have to revisit my enriching journey as a Master in National Security Administration (MNSA) student at NDCP. At that time a media practitioner, I was encouraged by then President Fidel V. Ramos to study so I would have a broader and strategic perspective of emerging local and global issues. After going through the rigors of the course and learning straight from the experts/security practitioners, I could say with pride that my depth of perception on issues prepared me best for the crafting policy in the Senate, especially in environmental, climate and planetary security, among others, which I have been championing through the years.

Thus, I support with the same resolve the six thematic priorities which the Philippines identified as guide for the various initiatives that has been and will be pursued under our chairmanship.

First, a people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN, which focuses on the social well being of our people.

Second, peace and stability in the region, which underscores the need to resolve conflicts and disputes using peaceful means, as well as the need to combat common security challenges.

Third, maritime security and cooperation, which emphasizes the need to resolve maritime disputes through dialogue and the rule of law.

Fourth, inclusive, innovation-led growth, which emphasizes the advancement of trade and commerce, in particular micro, small and medium enterprises.

Fifth, a resilient ASEAN, the promotion of which is vital in view of the climate crisis.

Sixth, ASEAN as a model of regionalism, a global player.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman,

The ARF HDUCIM has an important role to play in this regard. Established in 1997, the ARF HDUCIM is a track 1 platform that brings together the head of defense universities, colleges, and institutions of a diverse grouping of twenty-seven countries, including the European Union.

This year’s theme, “Defense Diplomacy Through Education And Research: Building Confidence, Enhancing Engagement,” is indeed very timely. As components of defense diplomacy, education and research contribute in the overall objective of peace and stability in the region in three important ways.

First, education and research fosters greater understanding among defense and security leaders of countries. Indeed, the strategic outlook of defense officials is significantly honed in educational and research institutions. Thus, interactions among these institutions help bridge understanding of issues and establish friendly ties. Manila aims to establish a Philippine Center of Excellence in Development and Security in this regard.

Second, education and research serve as means of engaging counterparts in the region. Defense and security officials, who are given the opportunity to study abroad, not only gain new knowledge, but also serve as a channel for engaging foreign counterparts in order to broaden perspectives.

Third, education and research are powerful conduits in building confidence. The goodwill forged in cooperating on education and research can eventually spill over on other possible areas of cooperation.

These three principles clearly highlight the crucial role played by education and research in the broader context of defense diplomacy. That is why our MNSA class #27 of 1993, proudly silver jubilarians next year, took the lead in the establishment of the Philippine Center for Excellence in Defense Development and Security (PCEDS) as our response to the call for more responsive security sector governance. I commit to help in the resource generation to make it operational this year.

I am also giving priority to the re-filing of my previous bill on the establishment of the National Defense University (NDU) now more focused and retrofitted to a Philippine Defense University System (PDUS) that will unite the various defense education units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense.

Fortifying these institutions will likewise expand the platform for international cooperation as a crucial component in addressing the various traditional and non-traditional security concerns, including natural hazards and climate change. The Philippine Senate has been and is supportive of ASEAN’s initiatives. Indeed, the Senate has concurred in various ASEAN agreements, including the Agreement on the Establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre), and the ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism (ACCT).

ASEAN too is that part of the world where women have taken on leadership positions in their countries. It is hoped that the inclusion of more women in the security sector be part of your discussions in this forum.

In closing, please allow me to convey my highest commendation to this august body in celebrating its 20th founding anniversary. Your annual conference complements the broader regional efforts in strengthening the regional security architecture through dialogue and cooperation.

It is in this spirit that I wish the delegates of the 21st ARF HDUCIM all the success.

Thank you very much and welcome to the Philippines!