MANILA -- (UPDATE) A Senate committee on Tuesday opened hearings on the country's third telco, which will be established by a joint venture between China Telecom and businessman Dennis Uy.
Among those who present were acting Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, cybercrime experts, representatives from losing bidders Sear consortium and Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp (PT&T), and third telco, Mislatel.
Uy skipped the hearing and was represented by his spokesman, lawyer Adel Tamano.
The Filipino-Chinese venture Mislatel bested former Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson's Sear consortium, and PT&T, who were disqualified from the bidding for failure to meet requirements. The losing bidders' appeals before the NTC were dismissed.
"We want to know what is the role of China Telecom in this third telco issue," said Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Committee on Public Services. She also led explanatory hearing's before Mislatel was selected on Nov. 7.
"It is not a secret that China telecom is a government corporation of China, a country in contention with the West Philippine Sea. Are we allowing control of a substantial portion of our internet traffic for the purpose of furthering their interests?" Poe said in her opening statement.
China Telecom "has been proven to have hijacked internet traffic" and the Senate wants to look into the country's "capability to reduce, control or mitigate these risks," she said.
"For example, as information reported accordingly, they deliberately rerouted traffic directed to South America, Milan and Japan through different servers," she said.
Senators want to find out if China Telecom would "accord the same respect for privacy" for its would-be subscribers and if the foreign player could "obtain valuable information to stir up insurrection or to prejudice the Filipino consumer," she said.
"We are not making accusations. We just want to know the truth," she said.
Mislatel committed to internet speeds of 27 mbps on its first year and 55 mbps on its second year, which will be "nearly at par" with Singapore, a regional benchmark for telco service, regulators said earlier.