MANILA - A high-ranking security official in the Duterte administration on Thursday allayed fears over the selection of a consortium involving a Chinese firm as the country’s “provisional” new major telecommunications player.
The government on Wednesday selected Mislatel as the third telco player that would go against current players PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom. The consortium includes China Telecom and Uy’s Udena Corp. and Chelsea Logistics.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the military and security cluster of the government were involved in the selection process, as he himself sat in the oversight committee.
He also noted that Eliseo Rio, the acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), came from the military.
“As to intelligence, I agree na laging titingnan natin iyong (we should look into the) security ng ating (of our) communications and that’s really the reason why we are there. We have inputted the provisions for national security in the entry of the third main player,” Esperon said in a Palace news conference.
“The Armed Forces was considered there and for the whole of national government, we want our national broadband to be secured and as much as possible, it will be a virtual personal network for the whole of government. Kaya secured po iyon, secured… huwag kayong mag-alala (That’s why it is secured. Don’t worry).”
Esperon said China Telecom underwent the proper process and there should be no reason to fear its entry into the Philippine market.
“They entered into… within the terms of the terms of reference that the NTC [National Telecommunications Commission], DICT have formulated for everyone to play within – so fair game lahat iyon (that’s fair game),” he said.
“Ngayon na pumasok ang China Telecom, ay bakit naman tayo maaalarma… eh alam ba ninyong sa telepono natin ngayon ang ginagamit na system diyan ay Huawei. Eh, saan ba galing iyon? (Now, China Telecom entered the picture, why should we be alarmed? Don’t you know we use Huawei here. Where did that come from.)”
Esperon was referring to Huawei Technologies, one of China’s largest technology firms accused of stealing technology from a United States company.
US authorities’ distrust of China due to the latter’s alleged habit of stealing technology from the US is the reason Huawei is shut out of the American market.
One of China's biggest carriers, China Telecom boasts of 281.6 million subscribers at the end of the first half of 2018, of which 217.3 million are on 3G. Its total base is nearly 3 times the Philippines' population. It posted a net income of 13.6 billion yuan (roughly $2 billion) from January to June this year.
Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday raised her concerns about the selection of the third player in telecommunications industry, saying the military and other intelligence agencies should be involved in the process.
“We hope this consortium will live up to the expectations of the people and the mandatory quality standards for internet connectivity and mobile services,” Poe said in a statement.
“There were security concerns earlier raised over the participation of a foreign firm and these should not be sidestepped. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and other intelligence agencies should weigh in on the qualifications.”