Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday asked her fellow senators senators to immediately investigate an agreement that would allow China-backed Dito Telecommunications to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps.
“Are we allowing us to be invaded? A China-owned telco inside our own military camp is doubtful, especially China which has not yet stopped in agressively claiming ownership over the West Philippine Sea, destroying our natural resources and abusing Filipino fishermen,” said Hontiveros.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto had said that military camps should be no-go zones for a possible electronic Trojan horse.
He said Dito Telecommunications can build their sites anywhere in the wide expanse of land in the country, and government should help them -- except in the 25 Navy bases and stations, 53 Army bases, and 17 air bases and stations.
These areas, Recto said, should be declared as no-go zones for this company. He noted that the military is not that big a landlord whose holdings are crucial in a telco’s operations. “Why insist on building on military real estate?”
Earlier, Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution No. 137 which seeks to investigate the national security implications of the agreement that allows the telco company to set up equipment and facilities within the military bases of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. ‘Probe deal to build cell cites in camps’
Hontiveros said he will request the Committee on National Defense to immediately hear this resolution in the Senate.
This agreement, she pointed out, should be scrutinized because it is difficult to believe that China has no personal interest in building cell sites in our own military camps.
“Are there no other cell sites? Why do we need military bases? It’s as if the Chinese state itself is present within our military camps. Our national security is at risk here,” warned the opposition senator.
She said that the Chinese National Intelligence Law, which she noted provides that Chinese corporations are obliged to support intelligence-gathering efforts.
“There is also the Chinese Counter-Espionage Law that Chinese corporations cannot refuse to assist their government in this regard,” she added.
“This is already a warning signal, and yet the AFP seems to have forgotten the warning its mother department itself raised last year,” she added.
Hontiveros said defense officials have previously looked into security concerns over the proximity of facilities belonging to Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, which largely employ Chinese nationals, to military bases and installations.
“We in the Senate, should exercise our oversight powers at once to ensure that our national security is not undermined,” she said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier disclosed to lawmakers that he has signed a deal with Dito that would allow the company to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps.
DITO, formerly Mislatel of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, is a consortium of Davao businessman Dennis Uy’s, a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics Corporation, and Chinese state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation.
The defense chief 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 had 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.”