Palace: Up to DND, NSA to determine possible Dito Telecommunity security threat

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — Concerns have been raised on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)'s acceptance of Dito Telecommunity's deal to set up communications equipment in its camps.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government could leave this deal if it proves to be a security risk.

"If it involves national security then this government can do something about it," Panelo said in a press briefing Monday.

He added that the Department of National Security (DND) will investigate the deal.

"I'm sure DND Secretary (Delfin Lorenzana) and (National Security Advisor Hermogenes) Esperon will be undertaking measures to respond to these concerns," Panelo said.

Dito Telecommunity, formerly the Mislatel Consortium, is the incoming third major telecommunications player in the country. China Telecom, a Chinese government owned corporation, has 40 percent of Dito's equity shares.

READ: Military allows Chinese-backed third telco to build facilities in camps

AFP spokesperson Co. Edgard Arevalo told reporters Monday that there is no cause for concern.

"Meron naman tayong appropriate safeguards sa AFP... Bago pa tayo pumunta sa isang MOA signing pinag-aralan na natin yun," Arevalo said.

[Translation: We have appropriate safeguards in the AFP. We studied the memorandum of agreement before we signed it.]

Arevalo explained that the telecommunications equipment to be built by Dito Telecommunity will be located within AFP camps but will be physically separate from AFP equipment. He added that the AFP has similar arrangements with other telecommunications players.

Senator Francis Pangilinan raised concerns over the deal in a statement Monday, citing two Chinese laws on intelligence gathering.

"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," Pangilinan said.

[Translation: There are two laws in China, the National Intelligence Law of 2017 and the Counter-Espionage law of 2014, that say that private organizations and citizens should cooperate in the gathering of intelligence information by the State.]

Pangilinan said that he will raise these issues in the Senate's upcoming deliberations on proposed 2020 budget allocations to defense agencies.