The Senate is likely to remove the funding for the P20-billion surveillance and monitoring project of the Interior department with a Chinese firm due to security concerns, Senator JV Ejercito said Friday.
In defense of the DILG’s budget, Ejercito, vice chairman of the Senate’s finance committee, warned that would happen if some government agencies would fail to justify the project.
“Some senators will introduce amendments. If not satisfied with documents and information submitted, [there’s a] big chance it will be taken out because of national security issues,” Ejercito said.
The DILG together with China International Telecommunication Construction Corp., an affiliate of China Telecom, will implement the surveillance and monitoring project.
At the request of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate finance committee head Loren Legarda asked the National Economic and Development Authority to submit documents pertinent to the Safe Philippines project that aims to install 12,000 closed-circuit television cameras in Metro Manila and Davao City.
During the budget deliberations, Recto said the contract was signed by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and the chairman of China Telecom, a partner of Mislatel that could be the country’s third telecoms service provider.
He raised an alarm over the project as, according to his sources, the equipment to be used would be provided by Huawei, which appeared to be banned in many countries due to hacking allegations.
“Would there not be a security threat if we allowed China Telecom to be part of a surveillance system of the DILG and the PNP?” Recto said.
“Here we are discussing the possibility of giving China Telecom third telcom status. They will be part of Safe Philippines with Huawei. They are blacklisted in many countries at least as supplier.”
In a press statement Thursday, the DILG said the Safe Philippines emergency response and monitoring system was not primarily for surveillance but an integrated system to improve police response time as well as deter and reduce crime.
Año said the project would level up the 911 emergency system of the DILG-PNP and be used to improve public safety, evidence collection in the event of criminal activities, incident prevention measures for disaster-related mitigation and response, and police and fire emergency response in addressing traffic and criminal incidents.
He expressed confidence that under the project, crime incidents would be reduced by 15 percent and response time would be improved by 25 percent.
He said that while the Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. was one of the three bidders of the project, it did not win the bid.
“He said Huawei and CMEC were disqualified from the bid because they did not meet the standards and specifications of the Special Bids and Awards Committee. Only CITCC met the requirements.
On Nov. 19, 2018, the DILG signed the $396.8- million contract with the winning bidder CITCC for the construction and installation of monitoring systems in Metro Manila and Davao City.