Sen. Kiko requests DND to hold in abeyance action on MoA between AFP, third telco

MANILA – Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Monday requested Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to hold in abeyance his action on the memorandum of agreement (MoA) between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Dito Telecommunity to build telco towers inside military camps, pending the submission of the MoA and a risk analysis review.

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.

“A risk analysis that will say that the technology is safe and secure is essential so that we have a better sense of how prepared we are for the technology — should we allow telco towers to be set up in our military camps,” said Pangilinan at the hearing on the budget of the Department of National Defense.

He said a Dito assurance that such installations will not be involved in intelligence gathering and will not compromise Philippine national security is not enough.

“You and I, Secretary, will agree that is not enough. And that we have to have even a party independent from the Armed Forces going through its own cyber-security risk assessment. An independent entity should have undertaken the same. And that’s why I’d like to see the Memorandum of Agreement as well, Mr. Secretary,” the senator told Lorenzana.

Pangilinan said he found the premature public announcement of the MoA signing “a bit odd”.

“I just find that a bit odd that there was a public statement of the MoA signing, when in fact the Secretary had yet to go through and scrutinize the contract. But I hope there was no attempt at forcing the hand of Secretary Lorenzana to approve … because it had already been reported in the media and publicly announced as a done deal,” said Pangilinan.

“It looked like it was a done deal — at least, perception-wise, Mr. Secretary. But we’re thankful that, on record, the Secretary has said that he is still reviewing this and that he has the power to approve or disapprove the said MoA,” he added.

Pangilinan pointed out that Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año earlier expressed discomfort with regard to a similar project proposed by China International Telecommunications and Construction Corporation — an affiliate of state-owned China Telecom.

In the DILG case, the proposed surveillance system seeks to install 12,000 CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras to be provided by Huawei.

“It was Secretary Año who said for example that there were some provisions that he was concerned about in case of a dispute in the said contract. For example, there was a provision that said Hong Kong would be where a dispute should be settled — or at least arbitration proceedings in Hong Kong. He found that objectionable,” Pangilinan said.

The senator also asked for a copy of the DND’s risk analysis review of the contract.

Lorenzana said he would be able to provide copies of the MoA and risk analysis review of the MoA within the week.