Gabriela Paulette Domanais

29 December 2023 | Issue Number 2023-09 | EPB ISSN 2945-4689


Traditionally seen as a male-dominated field, society often views work in the defense sector as unsuitable for women.[1] The common perception revolves around the notion that key players in the sector, politicians and soldiers, are mostly men while the unarmed civilians who are victims of war are often women.[2] Regardless of women’s actual participation during times of armed conflict, such as at the onset of the country’s armed forces during the Philippine Revolution, this protective and benevolent notion ultimately minimized the invaluable role women played during these times.[3]

Such historical and cultural circumstances built the roadwork that created the gender stereotypes still present in modern-day society. Ultimately, its existence came at the cost of realizing the true potential of women across various fields of work, though none more so than in the defense sector.

However, this gradually changed and policies were set in place that opened opportunities for women to take on and excel in traditional male roles. A great example of this would be Republic Act No. 7192, which was signed into law by former president Fidel V. Ramos in 1992. Otherwise known as the Women in Development and Nation Building Act, this is the law that finally allowed women to train for combat readiness in service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The intention behind its ratification revolved around the integration of women in development and nation-building as a push for gender equality in the country. This was further supported by the implementation of the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development 1995-2025 (PPGD), a long-term plan set to be the main vehicle for the full implementation of RA 7192 following the expiration of the Philippine Development Plan for Women (PDPW) for 1989-1992.[4] Moreover, the PPGD continuously calls for the creation of gender-equitable opportunities that boost and empower women’s participation across all sectors of development.

The PPGD became instrumental in the development of Republic Act 9710, otherwise known as the Magna Carta of Women, as well as the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Plan 2019-2025. The former is a ground-breaking legislation that definitively enforces the inclusion of women in nation-building and decision-making while the latter guides the creation of plans and programs to be gender-responsive.[5] All of these were developed to influence all other government plans, activities, and programs, as well as legislations, in effectively achieving gender equality in Philippine society.

Relatedly, the National Security Policy (NSP) serves as a cornerstone document that outlines a country’s strategic vision, guiding principles, and action plans to safeguard its citizens and interests, particularly through the defense and security sector. In the context of the Philippines, the NSP for the period 2023-2028 plays a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s response to diverse security challenges. Therefore, it is important for the NSP to be responsive to Gender and Development (GAD) and utilize its instrumental role in the defense sector in ensuring a secure and just society that is responsive to gender dynamics and is committed to equality and inclusivity within the country’s national security.

In this regard, this policy brief aims to analyze the National Security Plan 2023-2028 through a GAD lens and understand its implications on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS). Specifically, this paper seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. How responsive is the current National Security Policy (NSP) 2023-2028 to gender and development?; and
  2. What are the gendered implications of the NSP 2023-2028 on the defense sector?


The NSP is a document that provides guidelines for the development of strategies aimed at addressing the security needs of a country.[6] Per the Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance, the document is “a formal description of a country’s understanding of its guiding principles, values, interests, goals, strategic environment, threats, risks, and challenges in view of protecting and promoting national security.”[7]

In a nutshell, the Philippine NSP 2023-2028 seeks to “improve national security governance,” whilst “providing the enabling environment for sustainable and inclusive economic and human development,” all the while remaining anchored on enduring Filipino values.[8] It is further intended to act as the comprehensive framework that guides the strengthening of the whole-of-government pillar in connection with the approach stipulated in Executive Order 70.

The document is divided into four (4) chapters: the first details the enduring vision and values set that anchor the policy, the second describes the strategic environment, the third enumerates the country’s national security interests and goals, and the fourth discusses the guiding principles for implementation.

This policy brief focuses on chapters 3 and 4, respectively titled “National Security Interest and Goals” and “Guiding Principles for Implementation,” and takes in their significant impact on the defense sector.

Before an in-depth analysis of these aforementioned chapters can be done, it is important to briefly touch on the significant values on which the policy is anchored that might have gendered implications. It is important to note that the values presented in the first chapter of the NSP 2023-2028 are the same values that dictate the guiding principles for its implementation and for meeting the goals stipulated in Chapter 3.

To whit, these values are: “Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights,” wherein the document promises equality for everybody; “Inclusivity,” which states that the country shall pursue the widest possible amount of cooperation across Philippine society; and “Social Justice,” where the government seeks to ensure the free and open expression of one’s identity as the foundation of a ‘just and dynamic social order.’[9]

As it is, these are the only values outlined in the document that aligns with the intentions of RA 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) in the creation of equitable opportunities for women in nation-building. This is a key component to consider in the sound gender analysis of the NSP 2023-2028 as this provides government agencies with a legally binding document that paves a way towards eliminating “discrimination through the recognition, protection, fulfillment, and promotion of the rights of Filipino women.”


Chapter 3 of the NSP 2023-2028 identified nine (9) national security interests, each with their respective national security agendas, all of which are considered necessary for attaining national security. Amongst these, “National Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity” and “Regional and International Peace and Stability” can be considered as the main concerns of the defense sector.[10]

In terms of National Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity, the document reiterates the Philippines’ stance on ensuring the inviolability of its national territory. This subsection also comprehensively details operational goals in terms of defense and security, providing particular medium-term security initiatives for nation-building instrumentalities to pursue.

Meanwhile, in the pursuit of Regional and International Peace and Stability, the document highlights the security goal of becoming a Middle Power by utilizing the country’s “soft power” assets and enhancing international engagements and collaborations. In connection with the aforementioned security interest,  the Philippines’ intentions for international peace and stability affirm its desire to protect its sovereignty and territory. On the whole, chapter 3 is specific in its goals and intentions to achieve and maintain national security and set expectations for concerned agencies in the defense sector.

It is pertinent to note, however, that in the same chapter, the document brings up Political Stability, Peace, and Public Safety as a national security interest. Though this cannot be considered a direct concern in terms of defense, it does bring up a gendered issue. A subsection of this interest is titled ‘Public Safety, Peace, and Justice,’ which briefly brings up improving the educational and social circumstances for marginalized and vulnerable groups, including women. This is one of the few times gender, in this case, women, is explicitly mentioned in the document. The implications of this will be further discussed later in the paper.

Moving forward, Chapter 4 discusses the guiding principles in which strategies and policies developed from the NSP 2023-2028 are to be implemented. The guidelines presented in this chapter are heavily anchored on the enduring values identified in Chapter 1 of the document. Out of the nine (9) guiding principles mentioned in the chapter, there is one that is somewhat gender-considerate: “fostering inclusivity.”[11] However, the wording used in the section alludes to inclusivity not in terms of gender, but rather in the pursuit of strengthened bonds between government agencies and private enterprises.

Relatedly, this policy brief would like to point out the addition of Moral and Spiritual Consensus as part of its National Security Agendas.[12] Recognizing the importance of this agenda, its inclusion depicts a readily intersectional view of how the country aims to ensure national security. This, however, begs the question of why a gendered agenda for defense and security was not as explicitly mentioned.


The Philippines has several legislations, plans, and programs set in place to streamline gender equitable opportunities for women as the country strives for gender equality. Major examples of this include the development of Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women, which is the country’s localization of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Another crucial document in the country’s pursuit of gender equality is the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development (PPGD) 1995-2025, which was implemented by virtue of Executive Order No. 273 by former president Fidel V. Ramos in 1995. Spanning 30 years, this long-term plan continues to be the main vehicle for the full integration and mainstreaming of gender and development concerns and the institutionalization of GAD Focal Points across the government. Furthermore, it serves as one of the key references used for the development of the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Plan 2019-2025, as well as the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP WPS).

The PPGD in itself is comprehensive in that it looks at all the sectors of Philippine society to initiate transformative change toward the active participation of women in the development process and was provided a long timeframe as a way to ensure that there is enough time to achieve its goals. Chapter 22 of the PPGD 1995-2025 details the role of women in peace, which the plan defined as “not only a time where armed conflict is absent but also an environment for individuals to progress and develop their potential, where human rights are exercised and respected, and where everyone is equally mindful of their responsibilities.” It is important to note that though this concept is also fundamentally present in the national security goals and interests noted in the NSP 2023-2028, it does not contain the gender-nuanced outlook portrayed in the PPGD.

Relatedly, another key document that this policy brief considers in the assessment of the NSP is the Philippine Development Plan (PDP). As the nation’s security is also intertwined with its economic development, the PDP is considered a vital document to achieve the country’s long-term vision of national prosperity where people “thrive in vibrant, culturally diverse, and resilient communities.” Among the overarching goals set by PDP 2023-2028 is to “foster an enabling environment encompassing institutions, physical and natural environment, which promotes a prosperous, inclusive and resilient society.” Social development and social protection (SP) were cited as key areas of development needed to attain its vision of prosperity. In a world where conflicts affect both men and women as they each occupy half of the population, women’s involvement and participation should be highly considered to ensure an inclusive and sustainable peace.

However, understanding the intention behind these references begs the question of why the NSP bears little to no guidance on gendered security interests. This policy brief recognizes the advantages of having a gender-neutral stance in such a widely disseminated document, however, the NSP needs to have the bite to drive forward a truly equal Philippine society. This becomes a call for policy developers and implementers to continuously bear in mind the importance of providing gender-equitable opportunities that leverage the participation of women in male-dominated fields such as the defense sector.


It is clear that through the NSP 2023-2028, the government firmly resolves the country’s stance on the inviolability of its national territory. However, with the rapidly shifting security environment, there is a need to be purposive in ensuring the participation of women in the country’s defense sector. As it is, the way the NSP 2023-2028 seeks to tackle security issues is woefully free of any specified guidelines concerning gender. The direct implication of this is that it leaves a narrow motivation for agencies to insert gendered initiatives in the development of security strategies born from this cornerstone document.

In 2023, the Philippines ranked 116 out of 191 countries in the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) 2023 Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI), while simultaneously ranking 16th out of 146 in the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Gender Gap Report (GGRP).[13] Understanding that these reports measure different gender concepts, this wide gap is telling of the social reality faced by women in the Philippines. In an interview with Rappler, Dr. Nathalie Lourdes Africa-Verceles explained that though the Philippines has been a top contender in terms of women’s achievements and socio-economic opportunity on an international level, as seen in its GGRP ranking, the disconnect comes from biases that ultimately deter women’s chances for career growth, especially in the realm of leadership and politics.[14]

This attests to the importance of consistently including the country’s gender initiatives across policies, programs, and activities as a means of challenging these biases and ushering in the cultural shift needed as the foundation for gender equality. This holds especially true for historically male-dominated disciplines, such as the defense sector. The lack of gendered agendas in the NSP 2023-2028 can potentially revert to outdated stereotypes on the role of women in the defense sector and unintentionally cause their disempowerment to participate in national defense. It is clear that as new forms of conflict emerge, there is a need to employ innovative responses that call for an inclusive approach that would resolve conflict and address insecurity.


There is no denying the importance of the National Security Policy in developing plans and  strategies that map out how the country shall ensure national security. However, the NSP 2023-2028 lacks important gender-nuance that automatically incentivizes gender-equitable opportunities for women and people of various SOGIEs (sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression) in the defense sector. For decades, the county has been actively advocating for gender equality and has taken major leaps, policy-wise, in creating gender-equitable opportunities for women across Philippine society. Yet, despite these policies and legislations, it is still a ways away from realizing this goal.

To ensure that the defense sector is united with the government’s pursuit of gender equality, this paper puts forward the following policy considerations to strengthen and ensure the active participation of women in nation-building and defense.

Incentivize the participation of women in all strategies born from the NSP 2023-2028

This can be accomplished through a purposive and gendered interpretation of the guiding principle of Fostering Inclusivity, as stipulated in Chapter 4 of the NSP 2023-2024. Though there are existing legislations, plans, and policies that serve to not only incentivize but mandate government agencies to enhance the participation of women in nation-building and decision-making, fully realizing these initiatives is still a challenge due to pre-existing gender biases and stereotypes in Philippine society. Therefore defense agencies, such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other bureaus of the Department of National Defense (DND), guided by the PCW, must carefully monitor the implementation of policies that mandate the empowerment of women as decision-makers in the defense sector.

There are tools and instruments already in place to achieve such an end, such as the Harmonized Gender and Development Guidelines (HGDG) and the Gender Mainstreaming Evaluation Framework (GMEF). The use of these tools is mandated under the MCW as a requirement for the validation of the GAD Plan and Budget (GPB), the required 5% utilization of an agency’s funds towards gender and development plans, projects, and activities. This further incentivizes the inclusion of women as key players in decision-making and empowers them to rise above stereotypes that otherwise hinder them from reaching their full potential as leaders.

Ensure gender-responsive national security policies for the inclusive future of the defense sector.

As established in this paper, it is not enough that gender and development, more specifically the participation of women, is simply implied in cornerstone documents such as the NSP. The country has a long-standing history of pursuing gender equality. It is important that these efforts continue to have a cross-cutting effect across all sectors of development. Given that the NSP 2023-2028 is intended to be a “coherent and comprehensive plan that will effectively… fulfill our long-term development goals,” it is imperative that security concerns with gender are also amply addressed.

The PCW’s updated Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Plan 2019-2025 seeks to effectuate gender equality in the defense sector through the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP WPS). This plan identifies goals and targets specifically for the defense sector that, moving forward, must also be included as a national security interest or agenda in future NSPs.

The PCW’s updated Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Plan 2019-2025 seeks to effectuate gender equality in the defense sector through the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP WPS). This plan identifies goals and targets specifically for the defense sector that, moving forward, must also be included as a national security interest or agenda in future NSPs.


The country has made valiant strides in its pursuit of gender equality across all sectors of society. The Magna Carta of Women, supported by various plans and policies, is a trailblazing law that dictates the creation of equitable opportunities for women to participate in nation-building. For us to achieve an equitable playing field, there needs to be specific wording and tasking in national policies, strategies, and plans, to ensure that women are given opportunities to participate not only as peacekeepers but as leaders as well.

In the country’s ongoing journey towards gender equality, there is still a need for an active pursuit of gender equity and mainstreaming this initiative across all sectors. This policy brief illuminates the nuanced intersection between gender, security, and development, highlighting the role of women’s participation in all levels of society. Therefore, it is pertinent for agencies and program developers, through their respective GAD TWGs, to purposefully mainstream gender throughout all their projects, activities, and programs. The implications of inadequately ensuring a gender-responsive National Security Policy extend beyond immediate security concerns and move toward broader security issues of development. Therefore, it is compelling to ensure that gender and development are considered in our national security.

[1] “Mainstreaming of Women in the Security Sector: The AFP Experience.” MNSA Thesis, National Defense College of the Philippines, 2018.

[2] The National Security Administrator’s Guide to Gender, Peace, and Security, 2023.

[3] Doran, Christine. “Women in the Philippine Revolution.” Philippine Studies Vol. 46, no. No. 3 (September 1, 1998): 361–75.

[4] See EO No. 273: Approving and Adopting the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development, 1995 to 2025 (1995).

[5] See —-. “Republic Act 9710: The Magna Carta of Women.” Philippine Commission on Women. August 14, 2009.; and “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Plan 2019-2025.” 2019.

[6] Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance. (2017, November 27). National Security Policy – Security Sector integrity. Security Sector Integrity.

[7] ibid.

[8] National Security Council. 2023. National Security Policy 2023-2028. National Security Council.

[9] NSP 2023-2023, pages 8-9.

[10] Ibid, pages 19-21 and 32-33.

[11] NSP 2023-2028, page 36.

[12] Ibid, page 31.

[13] World Economic Forum. 2023. Global Gender Gap Report 2023. World Economic Forum. and United Nations Development Programme. 2021. 2023 Gender Social Norms Index: Breaking Down Gender Biases. United Nations Development Programme.

[14] Abad, Michelle. 2023. “Rappler Talk: Why Almost All Filipinos Hold Biases against Women.” RAPPLER, June 19, 2023.

NDCP Executive Policy Brief

The Executive Policy Brief (EPB) is a publication series on national defense and security issues by the Research and Special Studies Division (RSSD) of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP). The views expressed in this policy brief are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NDCP. The readers are free to reproduce copies mechanically, or to quote any part provided proper citations are made. Copyright © National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) 2023. All rights reserved.

Ms Gabriela Paulette Domanais is the Gender and Development Researcher in the Research and Special Studies Division of NDCP. Ms Domanais’ research interests include gender studies and Philippine women, peace, and security (WPS). For comments on the policy brief and other related engagements, please email

NDCP Editorial Board 

LtGen Ferdinand M Cartujano PAF (Ret)
Capt Aldrin C Cuña PN (Res), MNSA
Executive Vice President
Mr Clarence Anthony P Dugenia, MNSA
Acting Chief, Research and Special Studies Division
Ms Arielle Ann Nicole Lopez
Senior Defense Research Officer

Please scan the QR code to access our Feedback Form for your comments, opinions, and
suggestions. Thank you very much and we look forward to hear from you