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Lawyers group raises security concerns over China-backed telco

A group of lawyers has raised serious concern calling for the reconsideration of government's decision to allow China-backed DITO cell sites in Philippine military camps.  

Atty. Marlon Tonson of the lawyers group Tagapagtanggol ng Watawat pointed out the potential risk in a proposed provision in the Public Service Act to remove telecommunications as a public utility allowing majority ownership of foreigners.  

“Our constitution did in fact say that telecommunications is public utility and that the 60/40 percent  ownership restriction is appropriate,” Tonson said.  

He said that, “If you look at the constitution, the provision on telecommunications as public utility and the 60/40 rule pertains to how the constitution cannot be changed by mere act of Congress.”  

“One of those rights you can find in [the Constitution] Article 16 Section 10 mandates the regulatory environment for communication structures.  The interesting thing about this provision is that it’s a mandate that requires government to set up a regulatory system for the emergence of communication structures that would help Filipino capability,” said Tonson.  

In a statement following a virtual forum orgazized by the Philippine Bar Association on Friday, Executive Director of Democracy Watch Philippines, Paco Pangalangan said,

“Democracy Watch calls on all Filipinos to be aware of the risks presented by a telecommunications company backed by a Chinese state-owned corporation. The decision to allow such a company to set up cell towers in military camps should also be reconsidered.”  

Pangalangan said, “With one of the longest lockdowns in the world, Filipinos need reliable digital infrastructure. They also need their government to act with the public’s interest in mind.”  

“To ensure the expansion of digital infrastructure and Filipino capabilities, it must endeavor to uphold the rule-of-law. Instead of weaponizing the law to threaten existing Telcos one day, then to benefit a preferred foreign-backed telco on another, the government should instead prioritize removing the bureaucratic barriers that have slowed down the expansion of digital infrastructures needed to improve digital infrastructure and services,” Pangalangan said.  

DITO Telecommunity is a consortium of Udenna Corp. owned by Davao businessman Dennis Uy, subsidiary Chelsea Logistics Corp. and Chinese state-owned China Telecommunications Corp., the parent company of China Telecom.

Uy, a known supporter and campaign funder of President Duterte, controls 60 percent of DITO. His Udenna conglomerate is partnering with several Chinese state firms in big energy and construction projects. One of them, China Communications Construction Co. is blacklisted by the US for participation in the building of missile capable facilities in an artificial island in the South China Sea. 

CCCC subsidiary China Harbour Engineering Company got initial approval for a reclamation project in Manila Bay worth $1.2 billion, according to media reports.

Topics: DITO , security concerns , lawyers group , Watawat
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