PH military chief orders revision of rules on deals with telcos amid Dito controversy
MANILA, Philippines—Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay has ordered an update of the military’s rules on agreements with telecommunication firms amid the controversial deal with Chinese-backed Dito Telecommunity Corp.
AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said Gapay’s decision to amend the “implementing rules and regulations” was prompted by changes in the communications environment. The military’s guidelines were drawn in 2006 yet.
“We need to update this since this was put together in 2006 yet,” said Arevalo in Filipino.
“There have been many changes in the communications environment which we have to implement,” he said. “We need to revise our prevailing guidelines in the implementation of memoranda,” he added.
Arevalo said when the guidelines were written in 2006, the Philippines’ technology was not as advanced.
“If we have 113 million subscribers of cellphone in the entire Philippines, we need to upgrade our guidelines,” he said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told lawmakers at a budget hearing in the House of Representatives last week that he had already signed a contract with the Chinese-backed telco firm, which allows the Dito to build cell towers inside military camps. He argued that there were similar deals with other telcos, Globe and Smart.
Critics have cautioned against the agreement between the Department of National Defense and Dito due to security concerns.
Chinese state-owned firms are obliged by Beijing laws to follow orders, like divert or intercept internet traffic, or access state secrets, when required. The Philippines and China also have conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea, which China is aggressively claiming entirely.
Dito is a consortium between state-owned China Telecom and Udenna Corp. of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, a close friend and campaign donor of President Rodrigo Duterte. China Telecom owns 40 percent of the firm.
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