To prevent ‘intrusion,’ AFP wants access to Dito cell sites in camps – ISAFP chief
MANILA, Philippines — While the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) sees a “low threat risk” in allowing China-backed Dito Telecommunity Corp. to build cell sites inside its camps, the head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) said the military wants access to these facilities to prevent possible Chinese intrusion of Philippine networks.
Facing a panel of the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, ISAFP chief Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra said the military is looking into adding several provisions in the agreement entered into by the AFP and Dito that would serve as “safeguards” from possible threats.
In a risk assessment, Niembra said the military saw a “very low” possibility that these cell towers “might intrude into our networks.”
“We conducted a risk assessment on the possible threats…First is the RF [radio frequency] interception, eavesdropping or radiofrequency jamming and the result was that all the technical people in the Armed Forces found the risk to be low,” Niembra said upon the questioning of Senator Risa Hontiveros.
Hontiveros recently renewed her call for a Senate investigation into the deal between the AFP and Dito, which allows the latter to build cell sites in military camps.
According to the ISAFP chief, there are already cell sites previously built by local telecommunications companies Smart and Globe in some military camps across the country.
“We have not experienced any problem so far,” he said.
Niembra said the AFP is “contemplating of adding several provisions in the [memorandum of agreement] to act as safeguards against these possible eavesdropping or getting of information or intrusion to our networks.”
Among these provisions include the employment of Filipino engineers to “make sure that their loyalty will be to the Philippines,” according to Niembra.
“Our engineers will be present during the installation and we will be granted access or security audit anytime that we want to these facilities,” he added.
“All of these are to make sure that we will prevent intrusion or breaching of our networks. Aside from the fact that we have competent technical people to see to it that our communications will not be breached,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier disclosed to House lawmakers that he has signed a deal with Dito that would allow the company to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps.
DITO, formerly known as Mislatel or the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, is a consortium of Davao businessman Dennis Uy – 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.