Palace allays security concerns on allowing China-backed telco cell towers in military camps

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2020 06:04 PM

DITO Telecommunications and Udenna Corporation headquarters in Taguig City on February 20, 2020. Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA--Malacañang allayed security concerns related to a China-backed telco firm's plan to construct cell towers in military camps, saying the Philippine defense department will guard against espionage.

Some lawmakers, such as opposition Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, raised concerns on allowing China-backed DITO Telecommunity to build facilities inside some military camps.

The third telco is a joint venture between state-owned China Telcom and Davao businessman and President Rodrigo Duterte campaign contributor Dennis Uy's Udenna Corp.

"Iyan po ay importante para makapag-operate na po iyong ating pangatlong telecoms provider," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing on Monday. 

(That is important so that the third telco can operate.)

Roque added that the country's major telco players--Globe and PLDT--could also apply to build cell towers in military camps.

"Ang ating intensyon po talaga ay pabutihin ang telecommunications connectivity. At in-assure naman po tayo ng ating DND (Department of National Defense) na wala naman pong magiging security breach sa pagtatayo ng mga towers na iyan," he added.

(Our intention is to improve telecommunications connectivity. We were assured by our DND that there is no security breach over the building of such towers.)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the lower House last week that the 2019 Memorandum of Agreement between DITO Telecommunity and the Armed Forces of the Philippines which he recently approved covers only military camps that already host Globe and Smart cell sites.

Formerly know as Mislatel, DITO was granted a fresh 25-year franchise by Congress last August.

DITO Telecommunity said last Friday that locations for its facilities have been pre-determined as it released guidelines for land acquisition to be used for its tower sites and base stations. It committed to build at least 1,300 towers in its first year, to cover at least 37 percent of the population. 

The third telco is building its network to challenge the duopoly of Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc., with its commercial launch set in March 2021.