News Commentary

Strengthening cybersecurity: Unleashing the potential of collective effort, shared values

Rupert Paul Manhit - Philstar.com
Strengthening cybersecurity: Unleashing the potential of collective effort, shared values
Artist's rendition of hacker

Earlier this week, the Stratbase Institute held the first major cybersecurity event of the year in partnership with the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines. In the two-day conference entitled “Fortifying Cyber Cooperation Towards Digital Security,” we gathered high level representatives from government, the private sector, academe and civil society.

The overall sentiment during those two days was that cybersecurity was everyone’s concern, it affects all of us whether individual citizens, big and small business entities, institutions, and the government as a whole. Technology has permeated nearly all aspects of our nation’s life, and we have come to depend on it for our most basic and most personal transactions, the stakes are so much higher, and we stand to lose so much if the security of our systems is compromised.

For Canadian Ambassador David Hartman, the established rules-based international order has set in place a system of norms and rules that help preserve peace and enable stability and prosperity. Unfortunately, there are malign actors bent on upending the established rules for their own interests.

Only cooperation among like-minded states and across various sectors will help the Philippines in its efforts to boost cybersecurity. Ambassador Hartman affirmed Canada’s commitment to work with the Philippines to build its cyber and digital capabilities.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro talked about vulnerability on various levels and in many forms, ranging from information security to the exploitation of children. He acknowledged that the Philippines has its work cut out for it in terms of addressing these vulnerabilities and boosting digital security. On the positive side, this is an opportunity to work closely with like-minded partners and collaborate with other sectors in society.

The Head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, Mr. Sami Khoury, said he was looking forward to fostering mutual learning with the Philippines and building an international team dedicated to cyber protection.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman cited the digitalization efforts of the Marcos administration and said that cybersecurity is a primary consideration for this. The public and private sectors bear the collective responsibility to maximize the transformative potential of digital technology to ensure greater efficiency in the delivery of public services. In the end, the objective is to uplift the lives of Filipinos. Among the initiatives she mentioned were the creation of a zero-trust cybersecurity framework, data loss prevention, identity and access management, and disaster recovery planning.

Philippines' digital economy

The future of our digital economy seems bright. The Philippines has been cited by the 2022 e-Conomy SEA report as the fastest-growing digital investment destination in Southeast Asia. The digital economy is expected to reach $35 billion by 2025 and possibly $100 billion-$150 billion by 2030.

There is no doubt that the interconnected world has enabled us to do things that were only in the realm of the imagination just a few years ago. Interconnectivity encourages innovation, boosts competitiveness, and fosters economic growth.

According to Philippine Statistics Authority data released in April 2023, the Digital Economy Contributed 9.4 percent to the Gross Domestic Product in 2022.

“The Philippine digital economy in 2022 amounted to PhP 2.08 trillion, contributing 9.4 percent to the country’s economy or Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This amount represents an increase of 11.0 percent from PhP 1.87 trillion in 2021.”

But there is a downside to the huge developmental potential of this digital ecosystem, and this is our shared exposure to bad actors determined to exploit loopholes and weaknesses in the system for their personal gains. Cybersecurity threats take on many forms: cognitive warfare, cybercrime incidents, disinformation and misinformation, malware and ransomware. Certainly, there will be other forms of threats to emerge even as we cannot yet see them now.

Digital transformation is at the core of this administration’s thrusts in its pursuit of sustainable and inclusive growth. But technology, while it carries immense potential for benefits, also poses risks and dangers for individuals, businesses, industries, and states. Specifically, cybersecurity issues have the potential to influence the operations of businesses across different sectors and the country’s national economic growth.

Thus, parallel efforts are paramount. There can be no genuine digital transformation if we are perennially hounded by cybersecurity issues that threaten to disrupt our way of life, compromise our safety, privacy, assets, and feed our minds with erroneous and misleading “information.” 

There is no genuine digital transformation if people, organizations, and societies cannot be secure in their digital space, and if they consistently fear that everything they have built can be taken advantage of or destroyed by bad actors and other cybercriminals.

The Stratbase Institute is proud to have provided the platform to forge an all of society, and international commitment to collectively act against a global menace that threatens to engulf the interconnected world. We look forward to sustaining our discussions and spurring aggressive action and collaboration for the digital security of all.


Rupert Paul Manhit is the COO and managing director of think tank Stratbase Group. He is the executive director of Philippine Trade Foundation (Phils Inc.)

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