DILG exec urges next admin to pursue CCTV project for PH
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Monday said it hoped that the incoming administration will implement a closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance system project that was earlier awarded to a Chinese firm but was shelved after security and funding issues were raised.
Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said the DILG would recommend reviving the project when it meets with incoming Interior Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. for a briefing on his next job.
“It is up to them if they will implement it but this is highly recommended. If the project was started in 2019, it would have been finished by now,” Densing said in an interview with dzMM.
The P20-billion contract that the DILG signed with China International Telecommunication Construction Corp. (CITCC) dates back to 2018. The project was one of the agreements signed between the Philippines and China during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit that year.
Called the Safe PH Project, it seeks to install around 12,000 surveillance cameras in Metro Manila and Davao City to ensure “effective and efficient management of public order, safety and security.”
The Philippine government had agreed to finance the project through a soft loan from China Eximbank.
But according to Densing, a loan agreement was signed only late last year. Because of the delayed funding, the DILG could not carry out the project and was prompted to recommend to Malacañang its cancellation instead.
“We let go of this project late last year because we felt that the funding wouldn’t be approved. The funds were not released so we could not start it,” Densing said.
According to him, the DILG will seek new bidders for the project under the next administration if it is implemented.
“We will start a new cycle. I’m handling the special bids and awards committee to choose a supplier. But the supplier could not proceed due to lack of funds,” he said.
Before the problems in funding arose, some senators had also flagged the project for its potential security risks.
Following Xi’s state visit in November 2018, the Senate held plenary debates the next month on the 2019 budget, with Sen. Ralph Recto noting at that time that Huawei Technologies was under threat of a ban in some countries due to hacking and espionage allegations.
Under the contract, Huawei was tasked to supply the equipment requirements of the project.
Recto also said the project lacked further studies and consultations. Even the National Economic and Development Authority could not provide documents about the project, he pointed out then.
But then Sen. Loren Legarda, in response, said the project was aimed at improving the department’s capacity for “collaborative and efficient management of public order, security and safety, through the use of available modern information and communications technology.”
‘Privacy won’t be invaded’
Densing said the security concerns raised before had been addressed.
“We’ve said before that privacy won’t be invaded. The cameras won’t reach inside homes. It is very clear that this is really a public order issue to stop and reduce crime rates, at least initially in the National Capital Region,” he said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had earlier assured the public that the DILG would take the necessary measures, such as installing protocols and standard operating procedures, to protect data stored in the CCTV system.
Metro Manila was identified as the pilot area for the project due to its dense population, while Davao City was chosen to complement the monitoring system already in place in the city.
Safe PH was aimed at upgrading the 911 emergency system of the DILG and the Philippine National Police to improve public safety, evidence collection upon monitoring of criminal activities, incident prevention measures for disaster-related mitigation and response, and police and fire emergency response.
The project would have also included a national command center at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame and a backup data center at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga province.
State-of-the-art or high definition IP (internet protocol) surveillance cameras, intelligent video analytics such as facial and plate recognition, video content search and synopsis, and an integrated critical communication system were planned for the project.
—WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH