Hontiveros presses Senate probe of Dito’s China links
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Thursday called on the Senate to immediately act to investigate the national security implications of the entry of Dito Telecommunications in the country, in light of a recent study that raises more “serious concerns” on how the firm supposedly earned its franchise as the country’s third telecommunications player.
In a statement, Hontiveros said the findings of Asia-Pacific consulting firm Creator Tech bolsters the need for the Senate to heed calls for an investigation into the entry of Dito, amid reports of China’s deep involvement in its operations.
“We, in the Senate, should stop ignoring these blatant red flags. National interest and security is what is at stake here,” she said.
Hontiveros cited how the Creator Tech study, authored by its chief executive officer Steve Mackay, described the selection process that granted Dito a franchise as supposedly “flawed.”
She said the consulting firm’s findings were “not surprising,” as senators and even experts had already raised concerns over what they described as “looming telco intrusion” of Dito, which is partly owned by the Chinese government.
Hontiveros reiterated her call for the Senate committee on national defense to tackle Senate Resolution No. 137, which she filed in 2019, that seeks to investigate the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Dito deal.
“And in light of these recent findings, I hope that the committee can act on my resolution immediately,” she said.
According to Hontiveros, these experts have already raised “numerous” red flags, mainly over the deal entered into by the AFP and Dito for the latter to install cell sites in government military camps.
Backing Creator Tech’s findings, the senator said China Telecom (ChinaTel), which has a 40-percent stake in Dito, is 100-percent owned by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“Creator Tech also thought it necessary to articulate that Dito’s reporting line is under the State Council of the PRC because, indeed, this fact alone is alarming enough, especially at a time when China continues her adventurism in contested territories in the West Philippine Sea,” she said.
The Creator Tech report said that ChinaTel’s partnership with Dito was based on the “imprimatur of President Rodrigo Duterte” who, in 2017, purportedly requested China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang for a Chinese company to run the country’s third telecom operator.
“It is difficult not to draw the conclusion that China Telecom was predestined to win the license for the third telco in the Philippines,” Mackay said in his report.
The Creator Tech CEO warned that future administration may overturn the decision that granted Dito its franchise, due to alleged irregularities in the license process, and could “justify [its] withdraw[al].”
Hontiveros also expressed alarm over the report that ChinaTel “reports directly to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and that ChinaTel had close ties with China’s Armed Forces.”
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