China’s rising telecom influence worrisome

posted November 06, 2019 at 08:20 pm
by  Ray S. Eñano
China’s expansion into the infrastructure backbone of the Philippines deserves a second look. 

From its determined push to control the entire West Philippine Sea to its foray into the Philippine power sector, China now is aiming its sight on the local telecommunications sector. 

China’s economic powerhouse status is a given. It is expected to dominate foreign trade, along with the United States and Japan. Its rising influence over foreign trade partners is not unexpected, with its material wealth and booming economy,.

China’s attempt to gain a foothold in the Philippine telecommunications industry is also welcome as long as it fosters competition. But operating telecom facilities inside Philippine military camps is disturbing.

Third telecommunications player DITO Telecommunity Corp., the joint venture of Udenna Corp. of businessman Dennis Uy and China Telecom, has signed a co-location agreement with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, raising fears that the deal could be a springboard for espionage activities.

Critics say the agreement involving DITO and partner is a threat to national security and a violation of the Filipinos’ right to privacy and security of data.   

Party-list Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. and Rep. Manuel Cabochan both raised security concerns, and noted the apprehension of the US on the ambitious digital infrastructure initiative of the country’s third telco player.

Analysts are one in saying that the dominance of businesses and industries in other countries point to a centralized program of the state of China’s politburo. From telecommunications to infrastructure and finance, it’s been a long-standing policy of China to become the undisputed global power.   

The Philippines, thus, should take a cautious stance on business deals with China. The Philippine government should recognize its people’s sovereign rights and freedoms. 

The AFP defended the DITO agreement, saying it passed scrutiny before being signed by the military. AFP spokesperson Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo allayed the fears of some sector that the agreement could be used for espionage activities.

“The signing of the MOA between AFP and Dito Telecommunity, [formerly Mislatel] must be taken in the light of three reasons. Number one, this passed thorough government scrutiny when it comes to its fitness to do business in the Philippines... there are government regulatory agencies like Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Telecommunications Commission,” he said.

Cabochan, a retired Philippine Navy officer, noted that the US government has its own concerns on the 12,800-kilometer, cross-Pacific data cable linking one of America’s key cities to China’s Special Administrative Region in Hong Kong.

“As I see it, the undersea cable poses security concerns for the US, very much like Dito Telecommunity’s co-locating its facilities near or in AFP installations and camps. Hence, delivery of service is questionable plus the threat it poses to our privacy and national security [is a concern],” Cabochan was quoted as saying.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez has his own suspicions. 

“[The AFP’s] goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory,” Rodriguez said during his interpellation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s budget, citing Section 3 of Article 2 of the 1987 Charter.

“The deal allowing Dito [Telecommunity] to establish its facilities inside military camps will violate our national security and endanger our sovereignty. It is therefore unconstitutional and should not be allowed,” he said during the House plenary deliberations.

DITO will need all the government support it can harness. It is aiming to capture 30 percent of the market within the first few years of operations after signing new partnerships with two tower companies.

But DITO’s ambitious plan will likely encounter bumps on the road after hitting a sensitive nerve. The country’s security is at risk, to say the least.

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Topics: West Philippine Sea , China , Department of Information and Communications Technology , DITO Telecommunity Corp , Dennis Uy
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