Defense dept to probe PH military, Chinese telco deal: Palace

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2019 03:47 PM | Updated as of Sep 16 2019 06:18 PM

MANILA- (UPDATE) The Department of National Defense will investigate the deal between the military and Chinese-linked telco firm Dito Telecommunity Corp. amid concerns raised by lawmakers, Malacañang said Monday.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperson are "undertaking measures to respond to the concerns" over the deal, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

"He (Lorenzana) is going to investigate and ask the concerned people involved in the deal so we'll wait for his findings," Panelo told reporters.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last week signed a deal with the consortium tapped to be the Philippines' third telecommunications player, allowing the Chinese-linked firm to put its system, towers, and facilities within military bases in the country.

Lorenzana on Monday said he was on a trip when news of the deal broke out and would review it on Sept. 20 upon his return to Manila.

"Now I am aware of it and I will scrutinize it carefully before giving my approval. I’ll be back in Manila on the 20th," he said.

The Dito Telecommunity Corp., which received its license to operate last July, is composed of China Telecom and Udenna Corporation led by businessman Dennis Uy. 

Formerly known as Mislatel, the Dito consortium is expected to begin commercial operations by 2020.

Udenna Corporation is in charge of providing local knowledge and footprint in the business, while China Telecom will build and deploy the actual telecoms infrastructure. 

Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan has described the deal as "disturbing," noting that even Lorenzana and Hermogenes had expressed concerns over the increasing presence of Chinese nationals in the country.

Panelo meanwhile assured the public that if the defense department's investigation shows that the deal has national security implications, then "this government can do something about it." -with a report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News