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‘Nagpapasakop ba tayo?’ Probe sought into AFP deal with China-backed Dito

/ 01:47 PM September 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called on her colleagues to immediately investigate an agreement that would allow China-backed Dito Telecommunity Corp. to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps.

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“Nagpapasakop ba tayo? Ang isang China-owned telco sa kampo ng sarili nating militar ay lubos na kaduda-duda, lalo na at ang Tsina ay hindi humihinto sa agresibong pag-angkin sa West Philippine Sea, pagsira sa ating likas-yaman, at pag-abuso sa mga mangingisdang Pilipino,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

The senator earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 137 seeking to probe the national security implications of the agreement that allows the telco company to set up equipment and facilities within the military bases of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

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“I will request the Committee on National Defense to hear this resolution in the Senate immediately. Kailangan mabusisi ang kasunduang ito kasi mahirap paniwalaan na walang pansariling interes ang Tsina sa pagtayo nito ng cell sites sa sarili mismo nating military camps,” Hontiveros said.

‘Recipe for disaster’: Intel official raises red flag vs China-backed telco in PH

In this September 11, 2019 photo, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Dito Telecommunity Corp. (formerly Mislatel) present their signed Memorandum of Agreement that allows the new telco to build its communications facilities in military camps and installations. (Photo by FRANCES MANGOSING / INQUIRER.net)

“Wala bang ibang cell sites? Bakit kailangan sa military bases? It’s as if the Chinese state itself is present within our military camps. Our national security is at risk here,” the senator said.

She cited the Chinese National Intelligence Law, which she noted states that Chinese corporations are obliged to support intelligence-gathering efforts.

“There is also the Chinese Counter-Espionage Law that Chinese corporations cannot refuse to assist their government in this regard,” she added.

“This is already a warning signal, and yet the AFP seems to have forgotten the warning its mother department itself raised last year,” she added.

Hontiveros noted that defense officials have previously looked into security concerns over the proximity of facilities belonging to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, which largely employ Chinese nationals, to military bases and installations.

“Nabahala nga ang mga defense officials natin sa mga POGOs na malapit sa military bases, hindi ba dapat mas mabahala tayo sa isang China-backed telco sa loob mismo ng mga kampo? It should have been common sense not to allow this,” she said.

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“We, in the Senate, should exercise our oversight powers at once to ensure that our national security is not undermined. Nangangamba na ang publiko sa patuloy na panghihimasok ng Tsina sa ating bansa, kaya imbestigahan na natin ito para maliwanagan at mapanatag ang mamayang Pilipino,” she added.

Recently, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed to lawmakers that he has signed a deal with Dito that would allow the company to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps.

DITO, formerly Mislatel of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, is a consortium of Davao businessman Dennis Uy’s, a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics Corporation, and Chinese state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation.

The defense chief deferred the signing of the contract with the telco in 2019 after opposition senators asked for a copy of the agreement so they can review it.

Lorenzana had said he was given an assurance by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that the military will  “institute safeguards so that the security of our camps will be maintained.”

But lawmakers have expressed concern over the agreement.

“I am not yet ready to fully subscribe to suspicions that having them inside these national security compounds is like letting in an electronic Trojan horse. But it is better to be safe than sorry,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement last week.

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TAGS: AFP, Dito Telecommunity Corp., Nation, news, Senator Risa Hontiveros
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