Defense chief: Proposed mandatory ROTC can be fully implemented in 5 years

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 28) — The proposed mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program can be fully implemented in five years through a "phased approach," Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said Saturday.

"The projected timeline from enactment of the law to initial implementation is 2-3 years, while full implementation can be done in 5 years," Galvez said in a statement.

The defense chief shared six phases: preparation, pilot programs and simulation in volunteered schools, expansion to different regions, progressive implementation, evaluation and further fine-tuning, and full implementation in all schools.

Under the preparation phase are curriculum development, selection and training of implementers, personnel, logistics and budget planning, as well as selection of pilot volunteer schools based on results of evaluation of their facilities and capacities.

Galvez said the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have already coordinated this "proposed concept" to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and other supporting agencies.

"The DND and AFP also intend to harness the expertise of the Regional Community Defense Groups (RCDGs) of the Philippine Army, Air Reserve Centers (ARCENs) of the Philippine Air Force, and Naval Reserve Centers (NRCENs) of the Philippine Navy all over the country in managing the ROTC program," he added.

Galvez's remarks came after Sen. Bato dela Rosa got irked by a defense official, who told senators there would be an "enormous" requirement to implement the mandatory ROTC program.

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, DND Usec. Franco Nemesio Gacal said it would need the AFP to deploy 9,000 to 10,000 military personnel — equivalent to two infantry divisions that could cover Mindanao — to train students from around 2,400 higher education institutions.

Dela Rosa, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on Revitalized ROTC Act, responded: "'Pag gano'n ang attitude ng defense establishment natin, i-hinto na natin ito. Balik na tayo sa NSTP (National Service Training Program), kapag gano'n ang gusto ninyo. Pinag-uusapan natin 'to ROTC, ROTC, tapos kayo pala sa Defense, ayaw pala niyo, gusto pala niyong ibigay ang trabaho sa CHEd, sa TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority)."

[Translation: If that's the attitude of our defense establishment, let's stop this. Let's go back to NSTP, if that's what you want. We are discussing here ROTC, then those from the defense apparently doesn't want it and want to give the work to CHEd and TESDA.]

Galvez assured lawmakers that his department is ready to start the program once the law gets passed.

"The DND fully supports and greatly appreciates the enthusiasm of our legislators led by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa in pushing for the law and we commit to take an active part in the legislative process through our full cooperation and inputs, whenever and wherever they are needed," Galvez stressed in his statement.

The Senate subcommittee tackled the revival of the mandatory ROTC program, a different version from the "consensus bill" that the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading in December last year.

House Bill 6687, which seeks the institution of a National Citizens Service Training Program (NCST), was certified as urgent by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

READ: House approves NSTP replacement bill on final reading

Mandatory ROTC was abolished in 2002 following the death of Mark Welson Chua, a cadet at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Chua blew the whistle on alleged corruption in UST's ROTC program.

Republic Act 9163 or the NSTP Act of 2001 was signed in January 2002 replacing ROTC.