AFP assures public safeguards vs espionage in place amid concerns with DITO cell sites

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 09 2020 06:48 PM

AFP assures public safeguards vs espionage in place amid concerns with DITO cell sites 1
DITO Telecommunications and Udenna Corporation headquarters in Taguig City on February 20, 2020. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has assured the public that it has safeguards to prevent espionage, as national security concerns were raised over the approval of a deal allowing China-backed DITO to put up cell towers in military camps.

“Naglagay din naman po tayo ng mga kaukulang safeguards. May mga IT and ICT experts din tayo within the Armed Forces na nakakaalam ng ganyang mga bagay," AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.

(We have safeguards in place. We have IT and ICT experts within the Armed Forces who understand those things.)

"Nag-institute din tayo ng measures upang sa gayon, hindi naman ma-compromise ‘yung matters ng national security,” he added. 

(We also instituted measures so that matters of national security won't be compromised.)

“Lahat ng mga repair, constructions, at gagawing mga cell sites niyan, laging escorted ng ating military IT experts, to ensure na present din tayo kung may gawaing tulad niyan,” he said.

(All repairs, constructions, and installation of cell sites will always be escorted by our military IT experts to ensure that we are always present.)

A lawmaker on Wednesday warned government against its decision to allow a Chinese-backed telco to build cell sites inside military camps.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he was "disappointed" over the government's decision and its explanation that the agreement between the Armed Forces and DITO Telecommunity covers only military camps which already host Globe and Smart cell sites.

"Delikado 'yan dahil alam naman natin may conflict tayo with China (That's dangerous because we know we are in conflict with China). It’s very clear in the West Philippine Sea. Nanalo na tayo sa (we won in the) international tribunal and yet, they are not acknowledging itong ating panalo (our victory)," he said.

"Will we allow this Chinese-backed telecom to enter our camps, and then observe, take pictures of our camps and then be able to get info of what our camps are?" Rodriguez asked.

Arevalo said members of Congress did not comment on the Memorandum of Agreement when a copy of which was provided by the AFP before Lorenzana signed it.

Lorenzana confirmed on Tuesday that DITO Telecommunity, the country's third telecommunications player, has been given the go-signal to install cell sites inside the country's military bases, amid concerns over its national security implications over Chinese involvement in the consortium. 

The deal has drawn concerns as the Philippines remains locked in a territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea where Beijing has stepped up militarization activities.

DITO committed to provide internet speeds of up to 27 mbps and 37-percent coverage during its launch next year. 

So far, out of the target 1,300 towers, 300 were "live" and 500 have been erected, the consortium earlier said.