China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian recently identified Dito Telecommunity and National Grid Corporation of the Philippines as Chinese businesses in the Philippines that have ‘stood firmly behind the country in the fight against COVID-19.’
Huang included Dito and NGCP in a list of Chinese companies that took part in China’s relief efforts for the Philippines, explaining that China Telecom-owned Dito provided 375,000 kilograms of rice to local government units. He said NGCP, co-owned by the State Grid Corporation of China, also donated P1 billion to the national government.
Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano earlier stressed that Dito is a Filipino company in an effort to allay fears of unhampered spying by allowing a China-owned and controlled company to penetrate the Philippines’ communications infrastructure.
“We want to make it very clear that as a Filipino company, in terms of cybersecurity, in terms of national security, we will always make these paramount, and we will never allow any country to violate our national and cybersecurity,” Tamano said.
Bayan Muna leader and lawyer Neri Colmenares warned that China’s penetration into the country’s critical infrastructure makes the Philippines highly vulnerable to Chinese espionage and infiltration. “China poses a threat to the Philippines not only through its control of the energy grid but even in the telecommunications sector,” said Colmenares.
Dito co-owner China Telecom describes itself on its website as “a main force for building a cyber power, digital China and smart society, a forerunner in supply-side reform in the fields of cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence, and a provider of network infrastructure.”
It also aims to achieve this “under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”
Tamano himself said that he could not offer a 100-percent guarantee that Dito Telecommunity would not be used for espionage and cyberattacks. “I don’t like to give 100-percent guarantees. I don’t think anyone can give 100-percent guarantee on anything, but for sure, we have the protocol and plan in place,” he said.
Dito is ‘leaning heavily’ on China Telecom for the technology needed to challenge the incumbent telcos. “They are our technology partner. And we are leaning heavily on them for that. Sila ang expert dyan [They are the experts],” Tamano said.
The United States Department of Justice and other federal agencies have requested that the Federal Communications Commission terminate partner China Telecom’s authorization to operate in the US.
The US agencies are calling for the revocation of China Telecom’s license to carry out international telecommunications services to and from the US, concerned that state-owned China Telecom is “vulnerable to exploitation, influence, and control” by the Chinese government.
“Today, more than ever, the life of the nation and its people runs on our telecommunications networks,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.