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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 30) — The government will publish a national security strategy for the first time, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said Wednesday, in the wake of competing claims in the South China Sea.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the document on May 16. It outlines the administration's plans for a "secure, peaceful, modern, and prosperous Philippines," Esperon said.
Esperon announced this during a hearing of the House Special Committee on the West Philippine Sea. Esperon, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana briefed lawmakers about the situation and developments in disputed waters west of the country.
"We will bolster our position in the community of nations by strengthening diplomatic relations with our traditional allies, engaging non-traditional partners and pursuing an independent foreign policy that gives primacy to our national interest," Esperon said, quoting Duterte's words in the national security strategy.
The administration said it will continue to improve defense, intelligence, and law enforcement capabilities to address urgent concerns, including the communist insurgency, terrorism, and violent extremism.
Esperon said the national security strategy is in line with the National Security Policy of the Duterte administration from 2017 to 2022. The security policy is a comprehensive approach to addressing national security challenges.
There was no announcement on when the document will be released. Other countries like the U.S. publish their national security strategy to outline national security concerns and how the government plans to deal with them.
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano of the opposition welcomed the government's move, saying it should be "disseminated to all high government officials."
The administration has assured the public it is protecting the country's rights in the South China Sea. Esperon said the document also addresses concerns about the maritime row.
Cayetano said the government cannot divulge the contents of all diplomatic negotiations to protect national interest. He added, however, that Duterte has allowed declassification of some information on the sea row, which they will discuss with lawmakers.
The government calls as West Philippine Sea areas in the South China Sea that lie within the country's 200-mile exclusive economic zone, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international treaty both the Philippines and China had signed.
This is stated in the July 2016 landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which China refused to acknowledge. China continues to claim the South China Sea in its entirety.
Duterte has promised to bring up the arbitral ruling with the East Asian giant during his term, or until 2022.