MANILA -- Should the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) be reinstated as a mandatory course in colleges and universities?
Speaking to dzMM, Col. Antonio Lastimado, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Reservist and Retiree Affairs of the Philippine Army, said the country's reserve force drastically went down when the National Service Training Program (NSTP) Law was passed in 2001.
"Napakalaki po ng kakulangan [sa reserve force]...bulk po ng pinanggagalingan ng ating reserve force ay ROTC talaga. Kapag bumaba po ang enrollment sa ROTC, wala na po tayong pagkukunan ng reserve," he added.
Ideally, the country's reserve force should be 80% more than its active force.
At present, Philippine Army has 20,000 reserve officers, while it has 126,000 active officers.
"Ang ating reserve force po, they will serve as base for expansion ng ating armed forces, kapag nagkaroon tayo ng emergency or giyera, sila ay tatawagin, imo-mobilize po. Then 'yun na po ang magiging trabaho nila," Lastimado explained.
The passage of the NSTP Law was in response to the death of Mark Chua, a University of Santo Tomas student who was killed after exposing the anomalies in the university's ROTC program.
Volunteerism, love of country
Atty. Philip Sigfrid Fortun, who was an ROTC officer when he was in college, shared that being part of the reserve officers corps helped him a lot in being a lawyer.
"One of the things ROTC develops in the student, aside from adventure, is volunteerism. 'Pag andun ka na sa ROTC, it becomes love of country eh, because you are taught precisely how to sacrifice your life, to a point na it develops love of country, it develops a burning desire to serve the people," he added.
He added that it is time to reinstate ROTC, especially since the country is critically affected by climate change.
"Lalo na ngayon na we are the most critically affected ng climate change kasi archipelagic tayo. Tumataas ang dagat, nag-iiba ang simoy ng hangin...kailangan talaga ng ready reserve force, ito 'yung focus precisely ng ROTC: able bodied people who are volunteers, who are willing to suffer and to do things for the country without compensation," Fortun said.
There has also been a call to boost the Philippines' reserve forces in the face of a growing China, which has become more assertive in its claims in the West Philippine Sea.
Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian, who authored House Bill 2388 which calls for ROTC's revival, shared Fortun's view on the ROTC.
"My perspective naman is more on the governance and disaster preparedness angle."
HB 2388 aims to reinstate ROTC as a mandatory course in colleges and universities.
According to Gatchalian, the idea to pass the bill came from his experience during tropical storm Ondoy, when half of Valenzuela City was submerged in water.
He wanted to prepare the city for similar strong cyclones in the future, but he discovered that none of the colleges in Valenzuela City, at that time, had students joining the ROTC.
Once the ROTC is made mandatory again, Gatchalian believes the country will have enough able-bodied men who will know what to do during disasters and emergencies.