Cyberattacks from China along with its growing business influence and military presence in the Philippines are posing a threat to the Philippines’ economic interests.
The Philippines already filed about 60 diplomatic protests against China under the Duterte administration, including Beijing’s new law that allows the Chinese coast guard to fire on foreign vessels plying the disputed South China Sea.
Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, expressed alarm over the government’s questionable capability to counter Chinese cyberattacks.
Citing the lack of sufficient mechanisms in place to combat the raging cybersecurity warfare, Poe said, “we’re talking about the franchise of DITO Telecommunications and one of the issues being brought forth–and I think fairly–is how to protect ourselves, knowing that a certain percentage of ownership is owned by a foreign national.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros also aired concerns over the presence of “state-sponsored hacking in foreign countries, mainly China-based groups that are carrying out attacks on behalf of the Chinese government.”
Hontiveros said that “by allowing a proxy of the Chinese government to set up networks in the country, as well as facilities in our military camps, it is reasonable to conclude that a state-sponsored hacking group can easily get one foot in our door.”
Vice President Leni Robredo focused on the important question of “what is China’s interest in our national affairs?”
This was triggered by the move of Facebook to take down two disinformation networks: one with alleged links to the Philippine military and police and another originating from Fujian, a province on the southeastern coast of China. Both were flagged for “coordinated inauthentic behavior”.
Facebook specified in a statement that they “flagged both disinformation networks for potentially engaging in foreign or government interference, which is CIB-conducted on behalf of a foreign or government actor.”
The Philippine government addressed these potential threats with the National Cybersecurity Plan 2022 of the Department of Information and Communications Technology in the face of such foreign or government disinformation networks identified by Facebook.
DICT’s foremost concerns to be addressed by the cybersecurity plan are “making government information environment, businesses as well as individuals secure from risks, threats and vulnerabilities from malicious actors such as criminals, terrorist organizations, individuals or even hostile states.”
But the anxiety over Chinese threats continues to mount as in the case of the telecommunications engineer Pierre Galla ofDemocracy.net.ph who noted that “the country had not yet established a ‘cyber-defense doctrine’ to guide the AFP and the intelligence community in combating threats in the digital landscape, including those posed by state-sponsored hacking groups.”