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Watchdog wary of Chinese investments in telecom, other areas

A self-styled watchdog  on Sunday warned that China’s investment in the Philippines can be used for espionage.

Bencyrus Ellorin, Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and the Environment convenor, raised alarm that the investments of China in the Philippines, including in telecommunications, could be used for surveillance and espionage.

In the past years, China has put emphasis on artificial intelligence (AI) to empower its economy, gain political influence and project global power, gain military advantage specifically in emerging technologies and advanced cyber warfare capabilities and governance and societal control through the use of mass surveillance to impose “normal” behavior on its citizens, he said.

“Today, you see China backing its companies in investing in different parts of the world and it is using its money to offer multi-billion loans especially to poor countries like the Philippines. This becomes a problem as there are hidden strings that come with these loans,” Ellorin said.

He said Article 7 of China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law states that “any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law,” adding that the state “protects” any individual and organization that aids it. Rio Araja

Moreover, he added, China’s 2014 Counter-Espionage Law says that “when the state security organ investigates and understands the situation of espionage and collects relevant evidence, the relevant organizations and individuals shall provide it truthfully and may not refuse.”

The advocacy group cited China’s use of technology to implement surveillance on the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang Province, which has become controversial lately due to the issue to cotton coming from the area.

A news article in The Atlantic revealed that China deployed drones to Xinjiang, which is heavily populated by Uighur Muslims to monitor residents, Ellorin cited.

“The area is now subject to a heightened level of surveillance, with authorities collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, voice samples, and blood types from residents,” the news article read.

According to Ellorin, the Department of the Interior and Local Government launched a surveillance system project called “Safe Philippines” in Metro Manila in 2019 with 12,000 surveillance cameras of facial recognition technology.

For this, the Philippine government partnered with China International Telecommunication and Construction Corp. and borrowed nearly $400 million for the project.

“Chinese AI and technology are becoming increasingly utilized in other areas of the Philippines, as well, to include within the nation’s enormous call center industry and the country’s popular Dito Telecommunity phone service,” the group quoting the article.

The group said China’s telco project in the Philippines and the Ughur Muslim situation is the same in terms of surveillance.

It warned that Chinese companies is bound by China’s laws beyond its borders, therefore it is possible that a security threat would be demanded by the telecoms.  

Topics: Bencyrus Ellorin , China , Dito Telecommunity , Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and the Environment , National Intelligence Law
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