Dito says AFP deal will not lead to Chinese espionage

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Dito Telecommunity, which is backed by China Telecom, said its deal with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has enough provisions to prevent the Chinese from spying on the country, much less even setting foot inside military camps.

Dito cell site in Bago Bantay, Quezon City

In a virtual press conference, Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano dismissed spying concerns emanating from the memorandum of agreement (MOA) as “incredibly misplaced.”

“It really is just based on speculations because they are not familiar with this MOA,” said Tamano.

Under the MOA, AFP allowed Dito to install cellular sites in their camps. Dito said contrary to previous reports, they will pay the AFP in cash for renting the space, and not in kind, such as trainings and technology transfer.

“Some military officers have approached Dito to have cell sites in their camps because the current providers have very lousy service in their camps, and they want Dito to provide them with the services, and without an MOA we cannot do that,” said Dito chief technology officer Rodolfo Santiago, a retired military general.

Santiago said the agreement also expressly barred non-Filipino personnel from setting foot inside the camps. The AFP could also inspect Dito’s facilities. Officials said the agreement will also be terminated once there is an attempt to obtain classified information.

“This MOA with Dito is far more strict, more cumbersome to us, because access is severely restricted, because protections are much weightier,” said Tamano.

Tamano also brushed off suspicions that China has control of Dito, which is majority-owned by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, a close friend of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.

Tamano said China Telecom is an investor that provides technical capacity and that management control of Dito still rests in Filipino hands.

“We are not backed by China. We have a partnership with a company called Chinatel which is a state-owned enterprise yes, but in China they have over 150,000 state-owned enterprises so this is just one of the companies in China that does what would be commercial or private types of activities,” said Tamano

“At the end of the day, Dito is a Filipino company,” Tamano added.

Dito said they also have existing agreements with the Metro Manila Development Authority, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, and another agreement being developed with the Department of Education for online learning.

Tamano said they are also on track for their scheduled commercial launch by March of next year. “We are committed to launch in March but if we are lucky, we are trying to have an earlier launch date,” said Tamano.

Under its committed five-year roll-out plan that the company stated as part of its winning bid in 2018, the company in its first year of commercial operations has to deliver at least a 27 megabits per second speed covering 37% of the population and spend at least P150 billion.

Santiago said that by the end of 2020, they will have put up 2,000 towers which will be enough to cover their commitments for the first year. “We will be bring the authentic and superior 5G that other countries experience,” Tamano said.

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