The nation’s security is dreadfully unsecured

ON November 13, 2015, Republic Act 10697, otherwise known as the comprehensive Strategic Trade Management Act (STMA) became a law. Under its provisions, a permanent committee under the National Security Council (NSC) known as the NSC-Strategic Trade Management Committee (NSC-STM Com) was constituted. It is tasked as “the central authority on any and all matters relating to strategic trade management”, where most departments are mandated members.

To highlight the body’s security functions, it was made as a supplement of the country’s highest security body, the NSC, under the Office of the President.

To date, however, very few security-related activities can be attributed to this critical body aimed at addressing concerns of almost all aspects of security of the State and its four elements: People, the government, territory and sovereignty.

“Imagine, if the siege of Marawi is to be the backdrop, it is not improbable that the country and all its inhabitants are going to be virtual sitting ducks many times over, until the government seriously considers the imperatives of national security and its various permutations into strategic plans and programs,” said lawyer Ramon Cuyco, a trade security expert and a retired Bureau of Customs (BOC) official.

According to Cuyco, “National security must be immediately mainstreamed in all government agencies, and all Filipinos, leaders and ordinary citizens alike, must be ultra-watchful of their safety and security.”

The State, in the STMA declaration of policy (Section 2), must be free, among others, from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in its territory, consistent with the national interest;
to fulfill its international commitments and obligations, including United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540; to take and enforce effective measures to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of WMDs and their means of delivery; and to maintain international peace and security and promote economic growth by facilitating trade and investment through the responsible management of strategic goods and the provision of related services.

Consistent with its foreign policy and national-security interests, and in support of efforts to counter terrorism, control crime and safeguard public safety, the State shall manage the trade of strategic goods and provision of related services in accordance with international standards and best practices.

In scope and coverage (Section 3), the law applies to:

Any natural or juridical person operating within the Philippines who engages or intends to engage in the export of strategic goods from the Philippines, including designated special economic and freeport zones, the import of strategic goods into the Philippines; or the transit or transshipment of strategic goods through the territory of the Philippines and the provision of related services; and all Filipino persons providing these services wherever located; and

The reexport of strategic goods that have been imported from the Philippines to a foreign country, and the reassignment of strategic goods imported from the Philippines to a new end-user in the country of import subject to authorization under this Act.

The law,  (in Section 4), provides the National Strategic Goods List (NSGL), described with specificity, strategic goods that are subject to strict authorization. The NSGL shall be in conformity with international commitments and nonproliferation obligations pursuant to bilateral and multilateral treaties, international conventions and international nonproliferation regimes.

The NSGL shall comprise three annexes: military goods (Annex 1), dual- use goods (Annex 2), and nationally controlled goods (Annex 3).

Definition of Terms (Section 5) as used in this Act, include, among others:

  1. Authorization: refers to an individual, global or general license issued by the Strategic Trade Management Office for the export, import, reexport, reassignment, transit, transshipment of strategic goods and provision of related services;
  2. Carrier: refers to any vessel, train, vehicle, aircraft or other modes of
    transportation;
  3. Document: refers to any record on paper, in electronic form, kept on any magnetic, optical, chemical or other medium; photograph map, plan, graph, picture or drawing or device; and
  4.  Dual-use goods: refer to items, software and technology which can be used for both civil and military end-use or in connection with development, production, handling, operation, maintenance, storage, detection, identification or dissemination of WMD or their means of delivery. These goods are listed in Annex 2 of the NSGL.

In the implementing structure and mechanism of the law, a permanent committee (central authority) under the NSC, to be known as the NSC-STM Com, is hereby constituted and deemed the central authority on any and all matters relating to strategic trade management with the following composition: (1) the executive secretary, as chairman; (2) the secretary of trade and industry, as vice chairman; and (3) the secretary of foreign affairs; (4) the secretary of justice; (5) the secretary of national defense; (6) the secretary of the interior and local government; (7) the secretary of finance; (8) the secretary of transportation; (9) the national security advisor; (10) the secretary of environment and natural resources; (11) the secretary of science and technology; (12) the secretary of agriculture; and (13) the secretary of health; as members. The Anti-Terrorism Council and Program Management Center shall serve as the secretariat.

The members may designate a representative to the NSC-STM Com, who shall have a rank not lower than an Undersecretary. Five members of the NSC-STM Com shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.

The NSC-STM Com is to be complemented by the following support agencies and bureaus:

The BOC; the Bureau of Animal Industry; the Food and Drug Administration; the Bureau of Quarantine; the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute; the Information and Communications Technology Office; the Armed Forces of the Philippines; the Philippine National Police; the Philippine Coast Guard; the Office of Transport Security; the National Bureau of Investigation; the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency; the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office; the Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime; and such other offices, agencies or units as necessary.

 

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BusinessMirror columnist Cecilio T. Arillo, a veteran author-journalist, was educated at the International Academy of Management and Economics (IAME) with a Ph.D. in Management; the Pacific Western University in LA with BSc in Mass Communications and Master’s Degree in Science, Major in Economics; the Harvard Law School-MIT-Tufts University (consortium) on Negotiation, Mediation and Conflict Management; and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government on effective Decision Making and Organizational Change for Senior Executives. He taught undergraduate and MBA interdisciplinary studies at IAME and was president of the Philcoman Council of Management and Research Institute. Arillo is a member of the American Economic Association, the American Sociological Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Philconsa and lifetime member of National Press Club.