Bayan Muna leader asks Congress: Stop China’s advance into key PH industries
MANILA, Philippines—A leader of the militant Bayan Muna party-list group asked Congress to block the advance of China into two of the Philippines’ most vital industries—power and telecommunications—which could make the Philippines hostage to Chinese interests.
Lawyer Neri Colmenares, who used to represent Bayan Muna in the House of Representatives, said China has made worrying inroads already into Philippine telecommunications and electric industries by way of franchises issued by Congress.
One of these, Colmenares said, was the franchise given the telecommunications company Mislatel, which had been taken over by China Telecoms, a company owned by the Chinese state.
“China poses a threat to the Philippines not only through its control of the energy grid but even in the telecommunications sector,” Colmenares said in a statement on Wednesday.
He said China Telecoms now owned at least 40 percent of the consortium DITO Telecommunity, which is owned by Davao businessman and Duterte supporter Dennis Uy, which had been given the license to operate as the Philippines’ third telco.
With the Philippines in a maritime dispute over territory with China, Colmenares said “it is absurd for the Philippines to give it control of our telecommunications system.”
Last Monday, a CNN report said that the Chinese government already has full control of the Philippine’s electrical facilities, as China’s State Grid Corp. now has a 40 percent stake in the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), a company that operates the Philippines’ power transmission lines and system.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for an investigation by Congress of the Chinese buy-in into NGCP and retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio raised concern over it.
Colmenares said aside from the danger of putting China in control of Philippine power and telecommunications networks, which would allow China to shut these down if its relations with the Philippines turned sour, the inroads made by China into the vital industries also makes the Philippine highly vulnerable to Chinese spying.
Other countries had accused China of espionage using the telecommunications firm Huawei, which is also involved in the Department of Interior and Local Government’s project called “Safe Philippines”, which Colmenares said was “in fact a surveillance project.”
Recent reports also pointed to a group of hackers from China that had developed a malware, called “message trap,” which compromises cellular networks by monitoring and saving text messages, or SMS. It was suspected of being used for China’s intelligence network.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s pivot to China has led to warmer ties between Manila and Beijing but at the expense of what critics said was Philippine territorial sovereignty.
Duterte had defended his pivot to China, calling the behemoth Asian nation as a real friend of the Philippines unlike Americans.
But Colmenares said “China is not a friend.”
“It has trampled on our rights,” he said. “If we allow it to control our energy and telecommunications sector, we would become its province some day,” added Colmenares, making a broad reference to a case of vandalism in which banners reading “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China,” were hung on several footbridges in Metro Manila.
Edited by TSB
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