Webinar explores the interplay of economics & security in the PH
25 July 2023
The Foundation for the National Interest (FNI) in collaboration with FACTS Asia, Miriam College, the Development Academy of the Philippines, the Philippine Public Safety College, and the UP Department of Political Science organized a webinar titled “The Economics of Security: Considerations for Philippine Development’’ held on July 21 at 9:00 AM via Zoom.
For this webinar, four distinguished panelists shared their views and insights: Mr. Jesse Pascasio, Department of National Defense; Dr. Francis Quimba, Senior Research Fellow of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS); Dr. Maria Ela Atienza, Professor and former Chair of the Department of Political Science University of the Philippines; and Mr. David Ryan Sequeira, Deputy Economic Counselor of the US Embassy in Manila.
The webinar began with remarks from Ambassador Laura Del Rosario’s, President of Miriam College. She mentioned that “the Philippines cannot understate the fact that there is an intertwining of the nation’s security and economy.” Amb. Del Rosario further stated that the Economics of Security is more than achieving a secure economy to ensure security; it is also the knowledge and understanding of when to say “no” to avoid possible risks and threats that may come under the guise of economic investment, etc. At present, with the Philippines promoting investments in various sectors of its economy, the webinar was created to put the discussion of its economics and security at the forefront.
The first panelist, Mr. Jesse Pascasio, kickstarted the discussions by providing his take on the economics of defense-self reliance. Mr. Pascasio said that the Philippines has aimed to be self-reliant in its defense since 1974, with the Presidential Decree (PD) 415; however, he mentioned this current formula is outdated and fails to meet current needs. He stated, “In thinking about defense self-reliance, the Philippines needs to stop clinging to impossible dreams by living in the past; and take into consideration the political and economic realities of the current time.” To give further context, Mr. Pascasio listed the characteristics of the defense industry and discussed the foundation for defense self-reliance. He raised that the concentrated production in the National Capital Region, Region 3, and Region 4 poses serious security risks due to the areas’ proximity to each other and the West Philippine Sea. He recommends that the country transfer economic production to Eastern Visayas to mitigate security risks and increase economic security. Mr. Pascasio stated that “Ultimately, economic self-reliance, as envisioned in our constitution, will be the strongest foundation for defense self-reliance.”
The second panelist, Dr. Francis Quimba, discussed trade and food security. Dr. Quimba first gave an overview of the food security status in the Philippines and pointed out the little progress the country has made with this issue. The Philippines, according to the Global Food Security Index, in the year 2020, received a rating of 55.7 out of 100 - a score that was 1.9 lower than the score the Philippines received the year prior. He then defined food security and its four aspects: accessibility, availability, food utilization, and resilience, and then proceeded with the discussion on how food is a matter of national security. Dr. Quimba identified three hierarchical threats in this regard: the first-order threat is the direct challenge to the food supply; the second-order threat is the social instability when public access to food is challenged; and the third-order threat is the challenges from the continued condition of limited food access. Dr. Quimba furthered the discussion by stating that food security is also an international issue. Among the various examples, he mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic showed the vulnerabilities of food security and its grave impacts on trade, which resulted in a decline in food imports. To improve the food security status in the country, Dr. Quimba presented some policy recommendations, which focused on reviewing key policies, strengthening digital capabilities for agricultural trade, and promoting agribusiness policies.
The third panelist, Dr. Maria Ela Atienza discussed humanitarian assistance and disaster response focusing on the perspective of human security. The Philippines as a country situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire is prone to natural hazards and disasters that pose threats to everyday lives. The issue of climate change and the onset of the pandemic has further exacerbated the risk of disasters in the country and contributed to inequitable growth and poverty. Examining the legal landscape, Dr. Atienza argues that the Philippines has a relatively strong disaster relief response and humanitarian assistance and has even shifted its approach from reactive to proactive risk management. However, there are still gaps and issues in the policies and frameworks on disaster preparedness, as the emphasis is on responses while there is a lack of capacity, coordination, and information sharing among key stakeholders. Dr. Atienza underscores various new opportunities to strengthen the country’s resilience including but not limited to a strong emphasis on risk anticipation, strengthening national and local capacities in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and developing partnerships with civil society organizations, academe, and communities to protect vulnerable people.
The last panelist, Mr. David Ryan Sequeira provided a perspective on how to support economic resilience. He pointed out that economic security is inextricably linked with national security hence there is a need to balance economic prosperity goals and national security concerns. One way to do this is through screening investments in strategic infrastructures and by building cyber capacity. In terms of Philippine and US relations, he observed that the overall tone is positive between the two allies as exemplified by President Marcos’ visit with Biden. The US government, agencies, and the private sector have increased interest in supporting the Philippine government in its economic development and in other areas such as the environment, healthcare, and education.
During the open forum, the three speakers engaged with the audience, and the themes of the questions revolved on (1) defense industry production and self-reliance, (2) opportunities for cooperation for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM), and (3) how to avoid distorting markets and encourage investments.
A total of 328 participants attended the webinar event from various sectors including the government, academe, think tanks, defense and security personnel, non-governmental organizations, and private sectors.
Photos of the event available below.