Lorenzana says he has yet to approve AFP, Dito deal

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2019 09:50 PM

MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said he has yet to approve the agreement signed last week by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Chinese-linked telco firm Dito Telecommunity Corp.

The agreement between the AFP and the country's third telco, allows Dito to put up its communication equipment and facilities inside military camps and military communication sites.

Lorenzana is out of the country on official business.

“I am traveling kasi when this came out. When I inquired the CSAFP said the MOA is going to my office for my approval. So 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 in a text message.

Dito is composed of a consortium with China Telecom, the state-owned telecommunications company run by the government of the People’s Republic of China. 

In the consortium, it is China Telecom that will build, install, and monitor the entire telecommunication system, leaving its Philippine counterpart Udenna with the public relations and logistic aspect of the venture.

Director Arsenio Andolong, spokesperson of the Department of National Defense (DND), said the Memorandum of Agreement has not yet reached Lorenzana’s office.

“I believe the papers are still on their way to the DND,” Andolong said.

Both the DND and the AFP General Headquarters - where the MOA signing took place - are inside Camp Aguinaldo and practically across the street from the other.

Andolong said the Defense Department has concerns over the agreement, consistent with public concerns over national security and cybersecurity.

“Nothing unusual, just that when somebody puts something up inside camp, we have to look into this always,” said Andolong. “As with any proponent or entity that wishes to put up any infra inside camp, we have a concern always.”

Andolong, however, believes that the AFP exercised due diligence before entering into the agreement with Dito.

“I think the AFP knows what it’s doing. They had their own vetting and evaluation of the deal. So we’re pretty confident that they did that.”

The last word on the matter, though, rests on the DND.

“The buck still stops with SND. It’s up to the SND whether he will approve this or not,” Andolong said.