MANILA, Philippines – Some senators are seeking to probe a deal signed between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and China-linked Dito Telecommunity Corp. (formerly Mislatel Consortium) amid concerns that the agreement could pose a threat to national security.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday said she has filed Senate Resolution No. 137 after Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated that he was not aware of the said agreement, which allows Dito Telecommunity, the country’s third major telecommunications player, to rent spaces where they can set up equipment and other facilities inside military bases across the country.
Dito is a company comprised of Udenna Corporation, led by businessman Dennis Uy, and China Telecom.
“Is there now a ‘sign first, worry about security later’ policy under this administration?” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Ito na ang pangalawang beses na hindi nakonsulta ang defense secretary tungkol sa mga diumanong Chinese deals na pinapasok ng ating pamahalaan na may seryosong implikasyon sa ating pambansang seguridad,” she added.
Hontiveros further said that entering into a deal with a Chinese-linked firm is “irresponsible” amid continuing maritime disputes between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.
“Sa isang panahon na patuloy ang panghihimasok ng Tsina sa West Philippine Sea, napaka-iresponsable na pumasok tayo sa mga kasunduan sa kanila na hindi sinusuri ang epekto nito sa ating pambansang seguridad at kaligtasan,” Hontiveros added.
(In this time when China continues to infiltrate the West Philippine Sea, it is irresponsible for us to enter a deal with them without scrutinizing its effects on our national security and safety.)
The senator cited Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law which states that Chinese organizations and citizens are obligated to support “state-intelligence gathering efforts.”
Hontiveros said that under China’s law, Chinese corporations cannot refuse to assist such acts of espionage, since its Counter-Espionage Law requires that “when the state security organ investigates and understands the situation of espionage and collects relevant evidence, the relevant organizations and individuals shall provide it truthfully and may not refuse.”
“There is an urgent need to determine whether or not the presence of Chinese facilities in military bases and installations undermines national security and whether or not the lease agreements entered into for this purpose comply with applicable law,” she said.
The lawmaker added the agreement may be violating the Public Land Act which states that “military reservations cannot be subject to lease, occupation, entry, sale, or other disposition, until declared alienable by provisions of the Act or by proclamation by the President,” and the AFP Modernization Act, which states that any “sale, lease or joint development of military reservations must be authorized by Congress.”
Senator Francis Pangilinan agreed with Hontiveros’ sentiments.
In a statement, Pangilinan pointed out that two high-ranking government officials, Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, have earlier raised concerns on issues involving China, including the proximity of Chinese-dominated offshore gaming operators’ hubs to military camps and the influx of thousands of its nationals in the country.
“Hindi biro itong China telco involvement dito sa ating military camps,” Pangilinan said.
(This Chinese telco’s involvement in our military camps is no joke.)
“Ang concern: gagamitin nung Chinese government yung information na nakukuha [at] dumadaan doon sa kanilang mga sistema para itulak ang interes ng China,” he added.
(The concern is the Chinese government will use the information that passes through their system to advance China’s interests.)
The senator stressed the security risk is not a mere speculation, citing the move of other countries such as Australia, the United States, Japan and New Zealand to ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei due to security concerns.
MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan on Thursday slammed the agreement between the military and Chinese-linked Dito Telecommunity Corporation to build its facilities inside military camps.
In a statement, Pangilinan said the agreement raises fears of Chinese electronic espionage in the Philippines given the alleged involvement of some Chinese firms in this illegal activity.
“The planned installation of electronic communications inside our military camps raises fears of electronic espionage and interference given the record of some Chinese firms for engaging in this illegal activity,” Pangilinan said.
“This fear is especially acute given that China’s National Intelligence Law from 2017 requires Chinese companies to ‘support, assist, and cooperate with the state intelligence work,’” he added.
He also said that the country’s policies on security and foreign relations “have become so absurd,” citing how it laid the red carpet for the Chinese-linked firm inside military camps when the Department of National Defense earlier raised concern over the proximity of offshore gaming operators’ hubs to military installations.
“The Philippine government has not only allowed the Chinese telco on our soil, it has laid the red carpet for Dito Telecoms (formerly Mislatel) inside our military camps,” he said.
“Sa isyu nga ng POGOs (Philippine offshore gaming operators) na malapit lang sa military camps, na-alarma na ang mga opisyal ng DND sa potential security concern, paano pa itong nasa loob na mismo ng mga kampo? Our security and foreign policies have become so absurd,” he added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Dito Telecommunity Corp (formerly Mislatel) on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOA), allowing the latter to build its communication infrastructures in military bases across the country.
Dito, which was earlier declared as the country’s third telecommunications player, is a company comprised of Udenna Corporation, led by businessman Dennis Uy, and China Telecom.
Based on the agreement, the AFP will determine specific areas with its rental value for use of Dito communications sites provided it will not undermine the operations of affected AFP units.
Dito is also required to furnish all equipment and materials, shoulder all expenses and payments of taxes and other charges. The firm also guaranteed that devices and structures installed at the site will not be used to obtain classified information or electronic espionage.
But the Liberal party president questioned the rationale behind the plan to build telco towers inside military camps. He also sought a copy of the MOA.
“Why build these telco towers inside camps in the first place? Are there no other available sites for their towers? How much are they paying the government for these?” Pangilinan asked.
“How can we be assured that there will be no breach of national security and respect for privacy of communications and correspondence? Do we have guarantees that they will not obtain crucial information to the detriment of Filipinos? What happened to the cyber security audit of the DICT and the NTC on this third player?” he added.
He also urged Filipinos to remain vigilant and protect the country’s sovereignty amid unresolved maritime disputes with China.
“Atin ang Pilipinas — the land, the waters, and the air. Huwag natin i-surrender ito, kasama na ang naipanalong arbitral ruling sa para sa controlling stake sa joint exploration ng West Philippine Sea. We should be vigilant and keep watch as our safety and security are at stake,” he said.
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