E-licensing platform to boost Philippine peace and security

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star

CEBU, Philippines — The launch of an e-licensing platform for the trade of strategic goods is seen to improve the country’s commitment to peace and security, according to the chief of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

DTI’s Strategic Trade Management Office (STMO) e-Licensing platform is a one-stop-shop for all strategic trade-related services, which are seen to make transactions more efficient, transparent, and secure.

“DTI expects this infrastructure to help increase industry awareness and compliance with the Strategic Trade Management Act law,” Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said.

“This will significantly increase and improve the Philippines’ implementation of our international obligations, thus demonstrating our commitment to peace and security,” he said.

Republic Act 10697 or the Strategic Trade Management Act of 2015 establishes the National Security Council -Strategic Trade Management Committee (NSC-STMCom) was established, in which the DTI Secretary serves as the vice chair of.

The committee is mandated to manage the trade of strategic goods and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. It is tasked to maintain international peace and security and promote economic growth by facilitating international trade through the responsible management of strategic goods and the provision of related services.

In line with the creation of the e-licensing platform, the DTI-STMO was granted IT infrastructure support from the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (US DTRA) through the Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement (CTRA) between the United States and the Philippines.

Pascual said the launch of the platform is a significant stage in monitoring and controlling trade in the specified strategic goods.

“We aim to balance facilitating legitimate trade and maintaining international peace and security, and we want to trade in tools while ensuring that these tools are not used as weapons. The STMO e-Licensing platform is a way forward in responsibly managing strategic goods and providing related services,” Pascual said.

He said safeguards have been put in pllace to make transactions more efficient, transparent, and secure.

“Ultimately, this IT infrastructure project will facilitate the issuance of certificates to our industry stakeholders applying for the cross-border transfer of strategic goods,” Pascual said.

Pascual highlighted the importance of efficiently managing the trade of strategic goods and maintaining peace and security.

He further emphasized that the management of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), as well as other arms proliferation challenges are part of the Philippines’ obligation to the international community in pursuing peace and security.

“Confronting these challenges effectively is critical to protecting our country’s national security, foreign policy, international commitments, and most importantly, our people, our environment, and our allies. WMDs are weapons that can cause widespread damage to human and animal life, infrastructure, and the environment; they also evoke terror in the population. They can be nuclear and radiological, biological, or chemical,” Pascual said.

Pascual cited a statement by the UN Security Council (UNSC) president Oh Joon who noted that the Asia Pacific region faces challenges such as the expansion of nuclear energy and research, the production and storage of hazardous chemicals, the location of some the world’s busiest transshipment points and shipping lanes, and the existence of known terrorist organizations.

“In the face of these challenges, the Philippines intends to take the lead in implementing strategic trade policies for the non-proliferation of threats in the region. We reiterate our commitment to strengthening the supply chain of strategic goods. We shall continue to defend and enhance an international rules-based order and ensure that goods capable of being used as weapons for destruction are traded only with those who intend to use them for peace,” Pascual said.

Pascual shared that the export value for strategic goods amounted to $3.6 million in 2020, which further jumped to $4.5 billion in 2021.

“The STMO is still validating the annual reports and reconciling the data with the Bureau of Customs,”Pascual said.

He said the potential trade in strategic goods is expected to increase as businesses become more confident to expand their activities, considering the risk assessment criteria we apply to all export applications.

“For instance, US-headquartered companies are guaranteed that we will not allow their Philippine counterparts to have businesses with sanctioned individuals and entities,”Pascual said.

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