DICT says confidential funds meant for national firewall, expert training


Posted at Oct 17 2023 12:06 PM | Updated as of Oct 17 2023 12:13 PM

 George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News file photo
George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News file photo

MANILA — The Department of Information and Communications Technology said it would have used its confidential funds to put up a firewall and to train cybersecurity experts.

A House panel has reallocated the P300 million in confidential funds in the DICT’s proposed budget to intelligence agencies. DICT will retain P25 million from the allocation for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses.

Speaking on ANC’s "Headstart" on Tuesday, DICT spokesperson Renato Paraiso said the department needed to be able to procure equipment and services without publishing the details as required by public procurement law.

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He said the terms of reference and other bidding documents "would be subject to the scrutiny of whoever would want to counter that particular defense."

A 2015 government memo limits confidential expenses to those "pertaining/related to surveillance activities in civilian government ·. agencies that are intended to support the mandate or operations of the agency."

Philippine government agencies, including the PhilHealth Insurance Corp., the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Statistics Authority and the House of Representatives, have reported cyberattacks and breaches in recent weeks.

Philippine firewall?

Paraiso said that the DICT has proposed the creation of an "an initial firewall that would sort of filter the traffic coming to the Philippines to prevent foreign threat actors."

A firewall is meant to regulate access to a protected system. In some countries — as in China — these systems can also be used to restrict access to information.

Paraiso pointed out that cybersecurity threats are not just local — the Medusa attack on PhilHealth originated abroad —and that the Philippines needs to protect itself from foreign attack as well.

Beyond the Philippine firewall, "the individual government agencies would have their individual systems to address local threats."

The DICT spokesperson said over the weekend that the primary responsibility for the procurement and maintenance of systems is on individual government agencies.

Paraiso said Tuesday that the confidential funds would have been for "a Whole-of-Nation approach when it comes to this problem.”