MANILA, Philippines—The year 2012 is almost over and the new year, 2013, is just around the corner. The concluding year has had its advances. Although the security industry in the Philippines has some catching up to do with the rest of the world, improvements have been noted. More and more companies realize the need to partner with security service providers to enable their businesses to operate without interruption. Although the market now sees an increasing combination of both technical systems and human power, the latter still appears indispensable apparently due to cost and cultural considerations. The cost of assuming the services of security providers in the Philippines is still relatively competitive. Across the market, employees and the public seem to be more comfortable working with guards than machines. Though inconsistent with security’s job description, colleagues still prefer to be assisted by guards than go through access control by themselves for instance. In fact, even with a technical access control system in place, many colleagues continue to want to be assisted. Conversely, it has been ingrained in the minds of many security personnel that customer relations are very much a part of their job description and that they are the most normal things security people do in this market.

The advances that I have seen in the market this year also include increasing professionalism due to the enhanced awareness about the need for and importance of continuing education and training in the security field. I have been the chairman of ASIS International – Philippine Chapter for 2012 and I can comfortably say from what I have seen that many security professionals are very much interested in enhancing their knowledge. Apart from the in-house courses provided by their employers, security professionals can actually avail of so many other types of security-related training by various competent providers. Security as a field of expertise in the civilian sector is growing and becoming more organized as a body of knowledge. Pretty soon and apart from the short seminars that normally abound, the security field will become an academic curriculum by itself perhaps leading to a tertiary degree or even a graduate diploma. They already have it in Singapore!

I just would like to air a warning that while the industry strives for a culture of excellence, it should equally guard against becoming overtaken by a culture of mediocrity that is currently rearing its ugly head spawned by commercial interests. As I had advocated as a soldier back in my military days, the only thing going for the martial institution to assure its survival is strict adherence to its core values, the same is true with the civilian security industry. Collectively, the security industry must aspire for increased professionalism through best practice standards promoted by industry associations such as ASIS and or other organizations with no-nonsense standards towards promoting best practices not undermined by merely the pursuit of the bottom-line. While the bottom-line is crucial for operational sustenance and growth, it tends to destroy the very essence of the advocacy it is promoting if excellence and best practice standards are set aside merely to accommodate paying participants.

I think the future of the industry is secure and certainly that includes 2013. While there are emerging markets that will continue to operate businesses, the need for business enablers will intensify rather than wane. As the populations in these emerging markets grow, so will the challenges to operating businesses and thus the need for capable enablers. The combination of technical systems and guards as a feature of the security portfolio within a company will continue. While technical systems have a tendency to reduce the need for security manpower, the cultural traditions within the emerging markets necessitate the continuing need for professional guards who provide the personal touch and intelligence that customers and employees want.

The Philippines is certainly an interesting market for the security industry. The challenges are vibrant in this market. And they will continue to be for the foreseeable future. This is good news for optionally retiring policemen or soldiers. It is also good for civilians who are interested in the security field. Luckily, there are actually curricula now that allow one to pursue a fruitful career in the security field. But, the industry as a whole must professionalize itself or be a laggard in an otherwise very lucrative field. Practitioners must empower themselves to become world-class professionals employable by both domestic and multinational companies.