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Nica asks for more intelligence funds

/ 07:37 PM October 01, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, which is tasked to gather local and foreign intelligence vital to the country’s security and economy, pleaded with the Senate Friday for more intelligence funds, saying its allocation for this purpose was dwarfed by the amounts received by other agencies.

Nica Director General Ager Ontog said that Nica had only P21.2 million in confidential and intelligence funds in its proposed P530 million budget for 2015.

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This is 1.5 percent of the P1.4 billion total government intelligence fund for next year, Ontog noted.

The NICA is tasked with directing and coordinating all government activities involving national intelligence and counterintelligence, integration of information and production of intelligence, and conducting information build-up and counterintelligence activities.

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For 2015, the biggest amount of intelligence and confidential funds are lodged with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at P269.39 million; the Philippine National Police, at P306.029 million; and the Office of the President, at P500 million.

“One of the areas that we would like to request the honorable chair to help the NICA is on the matter of the intelligence fund,” Ontog said at the Senate’s hearing on the agency’s budget.

He said the NICA initially sought P63 million intelligence and confidential funds, but the Budget Department slashed this. He would be happy to have the original request restored, he added.

Sen. Loren Legarda, who chaired the budget hearing, was surprised at the amount set aside for intelligence activities of the country’s foremost intelligence agency, and promised to do her best to increase the allocation for its intelligence fund.

“How can you collect intelligence if you don’t have resources? How can you generate intelligent intelligence, accurate intelligence, updated, comprehensive intelligence? Garbage in, garbage out,” Legarda said.

She said good intelligence gathering helps a country develop faster.

“The country that is ahead in terms of intelligence information is the country that develops faster. That’s why I do not understand why you only have a P21 million budget when you are the repository of all intelligence activities of the government,” she said.

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She asked the NICA to submit its rationale for its request for additional budget.

Ontog said that historically, insurgency, terrorism and the secessionist movement had been the threats that the country faced, which was why the PNP and AFP got the bigger chunk of the intelligence funds.

But he noted the environment was changing, and the country was faced with the threat of global terrorism and of local terror groups connected to them. There are also concerns about cybercrimes and cyberwarfare from countries, businesses, and other entities.

“There should be a change in the focus on the threats confronting our country,” he said.

Legarda agreed there should be a change of focus, but added that this did not mean the traditional threats would be neglected, as they will always remain.

Still, she said she believed the bigger threats were what Ontog mentioned, including the threat of the terror group Islamic State penetrating Philippine shores, as well as human and drug trafficking.

Legarda also said intelligence information gathered here and abroad was crucial to protecting the country, as well as to helping it develop economically.

For instance, she said, data gathered could help the country anticipate the need for goods in other countries, so that the government could focus on funding the areas that could fulfill these needs.

“It’s like a consumer market. You anticipate the needs of people and you R and D (research and develop) the products that you will sell. You will not produce and research these when these are already prevalent in the market. That’s how we should look at the world market. That’s why intelligence for the economic aspect is so important,” she said.

Aside from handling intelligence activities in the Philippine, the NICA has foreign posts in South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and China.

It also plans to post intelligence officials in Washington, DC and the United Kingdom.

Ontog said NICA officials posted abroad are mainly concerned with the political and economic developments in their respective locations. They also work with their counterparts in the intelligence agencies of these countries, which help the NICA officials come up with more complete assessments.

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