The chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) assured on Wednesday that allowing China-backed Dito Telecommunity Corp. to construct facilities inside military camps would not compromise national security.
During a hearing of the Commission on Appointments, Maj. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra, a former commander of the Presidential Security Group, said they considered a lot of threats such as radio frequency jamming and interception but found the risks low.
He even told lawmakers that letting Dito build in military installations would give them access to these facilities to prevent possible Chinese intrusion of Philippine networks.
Niembra told Sen. Risa Hontiveros they conducted a risk assessment on the possible threat.
“The question with Dito Communications is because we perceive that because of this its Chinese nature, there may be threats,” he said.
“We considered four threats actually. First, the RF (radio frequency) interception, eavesdropping, radio frequency jamming and the result was that all the technical people in the Armed Forces found the risks to be low. So, there’s low risk or low possibility that these cell sites might intrude into our networks,” Niembra said.
He said the AFP is “contemplating of adding several provisions in the memorandum of agreement of the AFP and Dito to act as safeguards against possible threats.
Among these provisions, he said, include the employment of Filipino engineers to make sure their loyalty will be to the Philippines.
“Our engineers should be present during the installation and we will be granted access or security audit anytime that we want to these facilities,” said Niembra.
“All of these are to make sure that we will prevent intrusion or breaching of our networks. Aside from the fact that we have competent technical people to see to it that our communications will not be breached,” added the ISAFP chief.
Niembra said they have not encountered any problems with cell sites inside their camps.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier disclosed to House lawmakers that he has signed a deal with Dito, the country’s third telco, that would allow the company to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps.
DITO, formerly known as Mislatel or the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, is a consortium of Davao businessman Dennis Uy – a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte – with Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics Corporation, and Chinese state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation.
The defense chief deferred the signing of the contract with the telco in 2019 after opposition senators asked for a copy of the agreement so they can review it.
Hontiveros on Tuesday asked her fellow senators to immediately investigate an agreement that would allow Dito to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps.
She also filed Senate Resolution No. 137 to probe the national security implications of the agreement that allows the telco company to set up equipment and facilities within the military bases of the AFP.