China-backed Mislatel must prove it's no security risk: officials

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2018 12:51 PM

A sign of 5G is pictured at the booth of China Telecom during an internet expo at the fifth World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China. Jason Lee, Reuters/File

MANILA -- Chinese equipment are "already in our country" and all carriers, including third player Mislatel, are required to assure government that they pose no risk to national security, officials said Tuesday.

Mislatel, which won rights to challenge PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom, is 40-percent owned by China Telecom, with the rest held by businessman Dennis Uy's Udenna Corp and Chelsea Logistics.

Globe and Smart use equipment from China's Huawei in their infrastructure and during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III, they were required to commission third-party security audits, said Acting Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio.

Mislatel needs to finish a cybersecurity audit in 90 days from the time it secured provisional third telco rights, Rio said. Should it fail, Rio said the consortium risks forfeiting a P24-billion performance bond and losing frequencies it secured.

The Filipino-Chinese consortium is expected to "come up with a rollout plan that will assure the government that their network will not be a source of risk to our national security," Rio told a Senate hearing.

"The Chinese equipment are already in our country and they are already in our telecom network. If Mislatel will come up with their network, it will be the same equipment that Globe and Smart have," Rio said. "We can really assure the public that we will be cybersecurity compliant."

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency was running background check on Mislatel.

He was responding to Sen. Grace Poe, who asked Esperon if he was aware of reports that China Telecom "hijacked" internet traffic in some countries.

"That report it is subject to validation," said Esperon, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff. Rio is a former military intelligence officer.

Asked if Mislatel's standing would be affected should the reported hijacking by China Telecom be proven true, Esperon said: "It may, it may not because there are technical ways of countering that."

"Why is it when China won, it seemed to me that we suddenly have this kind of threat," Esperon said.

"Paano kung iba nanalo? (What if somebody else won?) We still face the same problems on cybersecurity. It is up to us," he said.