Third telco DITO says first year target on towers completion on track, seeks 'trust' on AFP deal

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 17 2020 02:34 PM | Updated as of Sep 17 2020 04:38 PM

MANILA - DITO Telecommunity on Thursday said it was on track to complete its initial first year commitment of 1,300 towers by October, as the third telco player appealed to "put some trust" on its existing agreement with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

DITO, set to launch commercially in March 2021, said as of Sept 13 it has completed construction of 859 stations out of its 1,300 towers commitment for the first year which will cover 37 percent of the population.

By the end of the year, at least 2,000 towers and sites will be completed, breaching its 1,300 target, said Ret. Maj. General Rodolfo Santiago, DITO Telecommunity's chief technology officer. 

Espionage and spying concerns have been raised after the memorandum of agreement (MOA), allowing DITO to build facilities inside military camps, was confirmed. DITO is a consortium of Dennis Uy's Udenna Corp and Chelsea Logistics with China Telecom. 

In virtual briefing, chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said the MOA could be "immediately terminated" when there is an attempt to obtain classified information. 

"I think we should put some trust that this agreement will not be used for spying," Tamano said.

"There is a specific provision, a provision that says if there is any attempt of use by co-locator, DITO to obtain classified information, that is a ground for terminating the MOA. The moment there is an issue on spying, this MOA can be terminated immediately," he added.

The memorandum of agreement has passed the scrutiny of the AFP, the National Defense and other security experts and were amended accordingly, said Ret. Maj. General Rodolfo Santiago, who is now the chief technology officer of DITO. 

The MOA in its current form has provisions that safeguards national security including the provision that non-Filipino personnel won't be given access to military camps, Santiago said. 

“There is a specific provision that no non-Filipino personnel will be given access to the camps where we’re going to situate. That’s very, very specific,” Santiago told reporters during a virtual press conference. 

DITO was responding to a statement made by Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra, head of the Intelligence Service of the AFP during his confirmation hearing that they might add provisions to the approved pact between the telco and the armed forces due to espionage concerns.

Site access will also be fully controlled by the AFP, while Filipino workers, mentored by Chinese advisers, will be engaged in constructing facilities, the telco said.

Santiago added that the AFP might also want to revisit the MOA due to the amendments in terms of payment for its use of military grounds for their towers. 

DITO was the first telco to be asked to pay with cash instead of in kind or via offsets, following a new directive from the National Economic Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management, among others, he said.

However, DITO followed existing MOAs of Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc, he said.