MANILA, Philippines— The Department of National Defense (DND) is looking forward to Congress’ approval of priority bills next year to further boost the country’s defense capabilities.

The proposed bills are the National Defense Act, Defense Acquisition Act, Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and Pension Reform/ Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday also cited the department’s accomplishments for 2019 in his year-end message.

“The dedication of the military and uniformed personnel of the Department is manifested in the excellent accomplishments for the year, significantly contributing to the peace and stability in the whole country,” he said in a statement.

The defense chief said they have ensured the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity throughout the year.

Some of the accomplishments he cited include the establishment of a permanent presence in Mavulis, Batanes, the country’s northernmost island.

The outpost was designed to boost the Philippines’ maritime entitlements within its sovereign territory.

The waters surrounding the island are a resource-rich area frequented by local fishers from the municipality of Itbayat.

The DND also increased its internal security operations in 2019, in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s agenda to end communist insurgency and terrorism.

“The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach to end the local communist armed conflict and places the burden of security and development on the LGUs supported by all the national agencies of the government,” Lorenzana said.

He also commended the military for its “excellent efforts” to attain the objectives of martial law in Mindanao.

Early this month, Duterte said he would no longer extend martial law in Mindanao this year following the recommendations of the security sector.

The entire Mindanao region was placed under martial law in May 2017 by President Duterte after ISIS-inspired terrorists laid siege on Marawi City. It was extended three times.