Sunday, May 24, 2015

FOCUS | Aquino has not called NSC meeting since 2010, despite raising alarm on China threat By: Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

FOCUS | Aquino has not called NSC meeting since 2010, despite raising alarm on China threat

President Aquino leads his Cabinet in prayer at its weekly meeting. His continued stonewalling on numerous calls for him to convene the National Security Council, as China continues to assert dominion over parts of the West Philippine Sea, has baffled many quarters. MALACANANG FILE PHOTO
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Despite characterizing China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea as a serious threat not just to the country but to the world as well, President Benigno Aquino III continues to ignore calls to convene the National Security Council (NSC). In fact, he has not called the vital advisory body to a meeting since 2010, as Palace aides admit.

In recent days, various sectors and even Aquino's own top military official have voiced alarm over China's "aggressiveness" as it rebuffed calls to stop its reclamation on parts of the South China Sea where the Philippines has its Kalayaan island Group (KIG), a municipality of Palawan province.

China's grim determination to enforce its hold on the reclamation areas was dramatically seen on May 20, when a US Poseidon surveillance plane was warned, at least eight times, by Chinese authorities to "go away quickly!" to "avoid a misjudgment" as it flew over Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, and part of the KIG.

Still, there is no indication till press time that the President will break his record of not convening the NSC since he assumed office in June 2010, as his deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte admitted.

Advisory body on foreign, military policies

Established by the National Security Act of 1947, the NSC serves as an advisory body to the President on domestic, foreign and military policies relating to national security. It also serves as the President's main arm for coordinating policies among various government departments in national security matters.

Past Presidents, lawmakers, security officials and Cabinet officials attend this meeting. 

The NSC is one of three important bodies that the President may call to address major urgent issues. The two others are the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) and the Anti-terrorism Council.

On Friday, just as news broke of the May 20 incident in Kagitingan Reef, Magdalo party-list Representative Ashley Acedillo reiterated his call for the convening of NSC as China continued its reclamation activities in the dispute regional waters. 

Senator Francis Escudero and other lawmakers had earlier pitched the same suggestion.

NSC must tackle clear and present danger - Golez

A former Paranaque Representative and National Security Adviser, Roilo Golez - an Annapolis graduate who is seen as one of the most diligent scholars tracking the South China Sea issues - had also weighed in on the matter. He said the NSC should be convened to discuss the "clear and present danger posed by China's reclamation activities."

"It should also tackle how the Philippines should deal with the imminent face-off between the US Navy and Chinese forces in the South China Sea," Golez told

During his incumbency as the country's chief security adviser from 2001 to 2004 under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Golez recalled that at least three NSC meetings were called.

Arroyo was president from 2001 to 2010.

NSC tackled 9/11, Mideast violence, MILF attacks

According to various reports, Arroyo met with the members of the NSC in September 2001 in the wake of the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.  She convened the NSC anew in February 2003 to discuss the implications of a breakout of hostilities in the Middle East.

In 2005, a full NSC meeting took place at the height of allegations that Arroyo rigged the results of the 2004 elections to ensure her victory. In August 2007, Arroyo presided over an NSC meeting anew to discuss the ongoing hostilities in Basilan and Sulu.  Another meeting was called in October 2007. To work out a solution to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front attack in Lanao del Norte, another NSC was called in August 2008.  In January 2010, Arroyo led her last NSC meeting in Malacanang, which was attended by her predecessor Joseph Estrada.

GMA: 9 meetings; Estrada 4; FVR 7; Cory 3

In his paper, "Challenges of Security Sector Transformation in the Philippines,"  independent security analyst Rommel Banlaoi noted that Arroyo held at least nine NSC meetings, while Estrada (1998-2001) presided over four meetings even though he was presidennt for just a little over two years.

Former President Fidel Ramos (1992-1998) had seven NSC meetings; there were three meetings during the time of former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, the incumbent President's mother.

The late President Ferdinand Marcos held the most number of meetings at 33 from 1972 to 1986, Banlaoi said. Marcos was president for 19 years

As far as the dispute with China over the regional waters was concerned, a high-level meeting - but not the NSC -  was held in January 22, 2013, or nine months after the standoff between the Philippines and China at the Bajo de Masinloc ensued.

In this meeting, it was decided that the Philippines will ask the United Nations arbitral tribunal to declare as illegal China's nine-dash line map that covers the disputed areas in South China Sea.

In a report last week, Ramos has said that he was "very alarmed" over China's massive reclamation and urged the government to take the option of back-channel talks with China to resolve the dispute.

PNoy avoiding having to include GMA in NSC meeting?

Some political pundits have attributed Mr. Aquino's continued rebuff of calls to convene the NSC, to his utter distaste for the notion of dealing in any way with his predecessor, whom he routinely lambasts in speeches and blames for much of the country's problems.

The NSC includes living past presidents, and convening the NSC would force Aquino to call former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative. Calling in Ramos and Estrada - now Manila mayor - while shutting out Arroyo would be hard to explain, one source said.

The NSC's principal function is to coordinate the formulation of policies relating to or with implications for Philippine national security.  But its major activities, so far, have been largely confined to making key decisions on high-impact external and internal security issues confronting the country. The major external security concern of the Philippines is the South China Sea Disputes. Its major internal security issues, on the other hand, are local communism, Muslim secessionism and domestic terrorism posed by the New People’s Army (NPA), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), respectively, according to Banlaoi.

There were at least five Executive Orders pertaining to the National Security Council: EO 330, s-1950 – time of Pres. Quirino; EO 115, s-1955 – Magsaysay; EO 115, s-1986 – Aquino; EO 33, s-1992 – Ramos; EO 34, s-2001 – Arroyo.

Arroyo's EO stressed the need to "modify the membership of the National Security Council to further enhance the formulation of policies affecting national security."

The EO said the NSC was being reconstituted and will be composed of the following:

a. President as Chairperson;

b. Vice-President;

c. Senate President;

d. Speaker of the House of Representatives;

e. Senate President Pro-Tempore;

f. Deputy Speakers for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao;

g. Majority Floor Leader of the Senate;

h. Majority Floor Leader of the House;

i. Minority Floor Leader of the Senate;

j. Minority Floor Leader of the House;

k. Chairperson, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations;

l. Chairperson, Senate Committee on National Defense and Security;

m. Chairperson, Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs;

n. Chairperson, House Committee on Foreign Affairs;

o. Chairperson, House Committee on National Defense;

p. Chairperson, House Committee on Public Order and Security;

q. Executive Secretary;

r. National Security Adviser;

s. Secretary of Foreign Affairs;

t. Secretary of Justice;

u. Secretary of National Defense;

v. Secretary of the Interior and Local Government;

w. Secretary of Labor and Employment;

x. Chief Presidential Legal Counsel;

y. Presidential Spokesperson;

z. Head, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office; and

aa. Past Presidents of the Philippines,

and such other government officials and private citizens as the President may appoint or designate from time to time.

"The Director-General of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Chief of the Philippine National Police, the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas shall attend the meetings of the Council as may be necessary to advise and assist in the deliberations," the EO said.

The Executive Committee of the NSC was also reconstituted to be composed of the following:

a. President as Chairperson;

b. Vice-President;

c. Senate President or his representative;

d. Speaker of the House of Representatives or his representative;

e. Executive Secretary;

f. National Security Adviser;

g. Secretary of Foreign Affairs;

h. Secretary of Justice;

i. Secretary of National Defense; and

j. Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, and such other members or advisers as the President may designate from time to time.

"The Executive Committee shall review national security issues and concerns and formulate positions or solutions for consideration by the NSC. It shall determine the agenda and order of business of the NSC, and shall ensure that decisions of the NSC are clearly communicated to the agencies concerned. It shall advise the President on the implementation of decisions. To carry out its functions, the Executive Committee may utilize the facilities and expertise of any of the government agencies and instrumentalities, and promulgate rules and regulations to govern its operations," the EO added.


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