MANILA — Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Monday raised anew a “national security concern” over the agreement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with a Chinese-linked firm to put towers inside military bases in the country, noting that two Chinese laws require Chinese firms to “cooperate in gathering of intelligence information by the state.”
Pangilinan was reacting to the memorandum of agreement reached between the military and the country’s third telecommunications player Dito Telecommunity Corp.
Formerly Mislatel, Dito is a consortium of Davao businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics Corporation, and Chinese state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation, a parent company of China Telecom.
The agreement signed last week allows the consortium to build facilities inside military camps, among others. The senator immediately called attention to the “red carpet” laid for Dito inside Philippine military camps.
“There is a national security concern. Alam mong merong batas, dalawang batas ang China, iyong National Intelligence Law of 2017, at iyong Counter-Espionage Law of 2014. And in both laws, sinasabi ng mga batas nila, na ang organizations — private organizations and citizens –should cooperate in gathering of intelligence information by the state,” he said in a television interview.
“China Telecom is an organization. It is a Chinese company. What if the Chinese government says, ‘Oh, meron kayong access diyan. You are mandated to turn over information to us because we have the Counter-Espionage Law and we have the National Intelligence Law,’” he added.
Pangilinan also pointed out that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. have earlier raised national security concerns involving China.
Pointing to the proximity of POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operators) offices to military camps, Lorenzana said these POGOs, which employ Chinese nationals, may shift their operations to spying.
For his part, Esperon admitted that he considers the influx of hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals in the country a national security threat.
Evidence in experience
Pangilinan said other countries such as Australia, the United States, Japan and New Zealand have already banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei due to security concerns.
He stressed that the security risk is not speculation, citing the case of Cathay Pacific in the Hong Kong protests.
“Hindi biro itong China telco involvement dito sa ating military camps (This Chinese telco’s involvement in our military camps is no joke),” Pangilinan said.
“Ang concern: gagamitin nung Chinese government yung information na nakukuha [at] dumadaan doon sa kanilang mga sistema para itulak ang interes ng China (The concern is the Chinese government will use the information that passes through their system to advance China’s interests),” the senator added.
Pangilinan said he will raise the issue during the budget hearings
“We will ask clarificatory questions regarding this deal. And we will look into this because popondohan natin ang AFP, DND,” he said, referring to the Philippine military organization and the Department of National Defense.
“Alam mo hindi biro iyang information na maaaring malikom dito sa mga telcos na ito: troop movement, conversations…meetings, national security briefings,” Pangilinan added.