Department of Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana should rescind the deal that allows China-backed Dito Telecommunity to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Friday, Sept. 11.
“The secretary should rescind the deal as it compromises the security of our citizens and our country as whole, especially security of our data, which is the currency of this century,” Pangilinan said.
“Countries more technologically advanced have actually banned or reconsidered business deals with China’s largest telco and phone manufacturer Huawei Technologies just two months ago due to possible spying. That should have been an eye-opener for us. Dapat natuto rin tayo sa karanasan nila,” he added.
Pangilinan cited the Reuters July 16, 2020 report, which said that the US and British foreign ministers agreed to promote the development of “additional trusted 5G solutions,” quoting the US State Department two days after Britain decided to purge Huawei equipment from its 5G network by 2027.
Another Reuters report, this time on July 22, 2020, said that French authorities have told telecoms operators planning to buy Huawei 5G equipment that they won’t be able to renew licenses for the gear once they expire, effectively phasing the Chinese firm out of mobile networks by 2028.
“This deal was approved last year but recent developments in the past 3 or 4 months give us serious reason to revisit the approval,” Pangilinan said.
The senator also pointed out the possible massive security breach this deal represents given that China has been encroaching on the West Philippine Sea and disallowing Filipino fishermen access to their source of livelihood.
“Meron tayong usapin sa China tungkol sa West Philippine Sea. Meron pa sa Benham Rise. Patuloy nilang nilalapastangan ang ating yamang-dagat at binabawalan ang ating mangingisda na maghanapbuhay sa teritoryo natin,” Pangilinan pointed out.
“Pero ano ginagawa natin sa usaping ito? Parang meron tayong kapitbahay na nang-aangkin ng ating bakuran at papapasukin pa natin para magbantay ng bakuran natin,” he added.
Pangilinan stressed that Lorenzana and the rest of the military establishment are duty-bound to protect the country’s national and the Filipino citizens’ security, not compromise it with the deal.
“We have serious doubts that we have in our possession the most modern technology and equipment to monitor cyber security threats. Kaya dapat pawalang-bisa na yung kontrata,” the senator said.
Dito Telecommunity, the third telco after Globe Telecom and Smart Communications, is a consortium led by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy. It includes Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Udenna Corp., and state-owned China Telecommunications Corp., which owns 40 percent of Dito.
Many have raised concerns over the Chinese stake in the consortium, as Chinese state-owned firms are obliged under Beijing laws to follow orders, like divert or intercept Internet traffic, or access state secrets, when required.
Among those who raised national security concerns earlier were Lorenzana himself and National Security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Pointing to the proximity of POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operators) offices to military camps, Lorenzana late last year said these POGOs, which employ Chinese nationals, may shift their operations to spying.
For his part, Esperon admitted that he considers the influx of hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals in the country a national security threat.
At the same time, Filipino citizens have started a petition addressed to “the Philippine Congress to stop the entry of Dito Telecommunity into the Philippine telco industry until its risks to the country are thoroughly assessed.”