Senator-elect Win Gatchalian sought on Tuesday for incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s endorsement of his House bill that would bring back the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in tertiary-level schools amid the continuing territorial conflict with China.

“With President Duterte’s endorsement of our proposed ROTC bill as a priority measure, the measure would immediately be taken up in the 17th Congress to ensure its swift passage given our ongoing territorial dispute with China,” Gatchalian said.

“It teaches discipline and nationalism… Dapat lahat tayo aware na puwedeng mangyaring lusubin tayo o ano pa man,” the newly elected senator said in an interview.

President Duterte himself said in a previous statement that the ROTC can instill “discipline, nationalism, and the patriotic duty,” which will prepare the youth in case China becomes more aggressive in its activities related to the territorial conflict.

“While we expect the United States to come to our aid if we are attacked by a foreign force, the country must also be self-reliant. And to build up a credible self-defense force, the country must restore the ROTC that was once part of the college curriculum,” Duterte said. “Our young men are presently too preoccupied with texting, Facebook, and other social media diversions that they don’t even know how to handle a rifle like we used to during our time.”

He emphasized that the ROTC would strengthen the military by supplementing the ranks of reserved officers, which has dwindled to around 150,000 in 2011 from as many as 800,000 before 2001. The Congress abolished the mandatory basic ROTC in 2002.

“The ROTC program will bolster confidence in our military preparedness and capability while at the same time provide our country with the support of our student-cadet reservists and potential commissioned officers.”

The rookie senator made the appeal to President Duterte as China’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, reportedly expressed confidence that relations between the Philippines and his country will improve. The top diplomat also said China is “glad” that the incoming President welcomes “direct bilateral negotiation.”

Gatchalian, who himself signed up for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Reserve Force last year, pointed out that making ROTC mandatory would help build a stronger reservist force, which he deems “is important in strengthening our national defense and in countering China’s aggressive actions” in the West Philippine Sea.

“The revival of the ROTC would help drive the point that although we are a small nation in economic and military terms, we will never back down from our fight for sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea,” he pointed out.

“It is worthy of note that prior to its being an optional requirement of the National Service Training Program (NSTP), the ROTC constituted roughly about 75 percent of the AFP officer corps, and has been the breeding ground for prominent graduates who became the country’s AFP chiefs-of-staff,” he added.

Under House Bill No. 2338, ROTC shall form part of the curriculum of all college degree courses as well as technical or vocational courses. It shall be a prerequisite for graduation. Students shall be required to complete the ROTC for an academic period for two years.

Male students will be required to undergo military training while female students will have to take civic training on basic rescue operations and health services.

The veteran lawmaker noted that his proposed law is in line with the constitutional provision that allows the government to call upon the people to defend the state and require citizens to render personal, military or civil service.

“Laws are replete with policies on service to countrymen, and these callings must now be instilled in our consciousness to be active in our civic duty, to prepare ourselves in case of a projected or actual need,” he stressed.