Even firm that will build towers in camps is China-owned, Bayan Muna bares
MANILA, Philippines — Party-list group Bayan Muna on Thursday quizzed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) if they they had prior knowledge that the subcontractor doing tower constructions within military camps hails from China.
In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite and party chairperson Neri Colmenares said Leo Technologies Infrastructure, the company constructing towers for third telco player Dito Telecommunity inside military camps is a subsidiary of China Bester Telecom based in China’s Wuhan City.
“We were surprised when we found out that Leo Technologies Infrastructure was reported as a subsidiary of China Bester Telecom from Wuhan, China. Many were not aware of this when the DND-DITO agreement to put up towers in military camps was approved,” Gaite said.
“We are asking the AFP if they were aware that the very company that will construct the towers in their camps is fully owned by a telecom company in China,” he added.
Dito’s deal with DND to construct cell sites within military installations was supposedly meant to avoid technical problems brought by terrorist or communist attacks.
However, these drew concerns from critics who speculated that it might be a way for China to spy on the country’s military operations — even before it was revealed that Leo Technologies was involved in the construction of the towers — considering that state-owned China Telecom has a stake in Dito.
Dito is a consortium led by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy through his Udenna Corp., and China Telecom, Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp.
“While we have been critical of DITO for being partly owned by China Telecom, we were surprised that the company which will build towers in military camps is in fact fully owned by a Chinese company in Wuhan. Our impression before was that Leo Technology has no connection with China,” Gaite explained.
Colmenares, meanwhile, noted that China Telecom’s 40 percent stake at Dito may actually be bigger than projected because of loans that the latter sourced from China Telecom.
“The putting up of DITO towers in camps, and in fact the entry of DITO into our telecom sector is a huge threat to Philippine sovereignty and security. China Telecom owns at least 40% of DITO, and DITO’s loan of US$ 500 Million from China’s banking sector portends of China’s greater control of the company beyond its 40% share,” he said in the same statement.
“Now, we are informed that the company actually building these towers is fully owned by China. In fact, we found out that China Bester has been previously contracted to build fiber optic networks for homes in the Philippines. Worse, the China Energy Equipment Co., another Chinese company contracted by DITO to construct its towers, is also a fully owned company from China,” he added.
Allegations of Chinese intrusion in the Philippines has grown under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who sought to repair ties between Manila and Beijing that were severed by international protests made by the previous administration.
While Duterte claimed that it is merely a result of the independent foreign policy he chose to adapt. But a lot of observers found that China was being more aggressive in its stance at the West Philippine Sea, with independent studies finding out that more Chinese boats — said to be part of the Chinese militia — are entering the region.
China’s influence in the country also rose as several of the administration’s Build, Build, Build projects were either built or funded by companies from the Asian superpower.
Colmenares, a staunch critic of the Duterte government, urged the President to act on the issue and stop favoring China. This, despite security officials like National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. assuring the public that there is nothing to be worried about the cell site installations inside camps.
AFP on the other hand assured that measures are in place to prevent possible spying.
But for Colmenares, just the act of Chinese firms entering military camps while tensions are high over the disputed West Philippine Sea region, is still dangerous.
“This is dangerous and Pres. Duterte should stop favoring companies of China especially on our very important industries in the Philippines […] China’s influence in Philippine economy and politics will grow as long as Pres. Duterte pursues his kowtowing policy with a country that has trampled on our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea and attacked our sovereignty and security,” Colmenares said.
“Pres. Duterte’s insistence to belittle the threats from China, justify Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, even his attempts at abandoning and compromising our Tribunal victory over China shows his submissiveness to China and signals that the protection he gives to companies from China will continue,” he added.
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