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PH military says it welcomes Senate probe of deal with China-backed telco

/ 07:17 PM September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday (Sept. 15) welcomed the initiative of Sen. Risa Hontiveros to hold a Senate inquiry on the deal between the military and Chinese-backed Dito Telecommunity Corp. that would allow the installation of cell sites on military camps.

“We respect the Senate’s oversight function,” said AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo in a statement.

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“We are happy to be tasked and in fact welcome the call for a Senate inquiry on the signed MOA (memorandum of agreement) between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Dito Corp.,” he said.

Arevalo said the AFP viewed the investigation as an “opportunity to present to the honorable members of Congress the whys and wherefores of our decision to sign the MOA.”

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“This may even be an opportunity for the legislators to draw inputs from the said hearing on the matter to aid them in their legislative function,” he said.

Some government officials and security analysts have earlier raised concerns over the Chinese stake in the consortium, amid Beijing’s use of cyber surveillance in other countries.

Chinese state-owned firms are obliged under Beijing laws to follow orders, like divert or intercept internet traffic, or access state secrets, when required.

Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that he has already signed a deal with the Chinese-backed telco after getting no feedback from the Senate.

He said he deferred the signing of the contract with the telco in 2019 after opposition senators asked for a copy of the agreement so they can review it.

Lorenzana said he was given an assurance by the AFP that the military will “institute safeguards so that the security of our camps will be maintained.”

The state-owned China Telecom owns 40 percent of Dito Telecommunity.

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It is a consortium led by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, which included Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Udenna Corp. and China Telecom.

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TAGS: AFP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, cell sites, China, China Telecom, Delfin Lorenzana, Dito Telecommunity, Espionage, investigation, military camps, MOA, Senate, Spying, state-owned, telecoms
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