Dito Telecommunity Corp. had signed an agreement with the military allowing the new entrant to install its communications facilities in army camps.
Blocking China-backed telco from building towers in military bases anti-competitive — DICT
Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( - September 17, 2019 - 8:04pm

MANILA, Philippines — Preventing the third mobile operator — which was backed by a Chinese state-run giant — from building its communications facilities in military bases when incumbent players were allowed to do so would violate the Philippines' competition law, a telecom official said Tuesday.

Dito Telecommunity Corp. had signed an agreement with the military allowing the new entrant to install its communications facilities in army camps.

The deal stoked alarm among lawmakers, who raised concerns about possible espionage. Davao-based tycoon Dennis Uy, an old friend of President Rodrigo Duterte, teamed up with state-run China Telecom to form Dito, formerly known as the Mislatel consortium.

In a statement, Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Eliseo Rio said that such a deal between the military and Dito was not the first of its kind, adding that incumbents Globe and PLDT had similar agreements with the military since 1992.

Rio added that the agreement between Dito and the Armed Forces of the Philippines was “more strict” as the National Security Council required the third telco player to submit a cybersecurity plan.

“Not allowing DITO to co-locate inside military camps when Globe and Smart, both also using Chinese-made equipment are allowed, would be against our anti-competitive laws,” Rio, a veteran of military communications, said.

“The benefits that these co-location [agreements] between AFP and the telcos for the AFP in particular and the government in general has been very instrumental in better operations for our military forces, saving the government millions of pesos in telecommunication services and equipment costs,” he added.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan had said the agreement between Dito and the AFP was “very disturbing,” arguing that China might use the communications facilities to access state secrets. Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, called for a Senate inquiry into the military's agreement with the China-linked company.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has yet to sign the memorandum of agreement to finalize the deal.

READ: China-linked towers in military camps not yet a done deal — AFP

The government expects Dito to start operating by the first quarter of 2020.

According to Uy, Dito would double the current speed offerings to 27 mbps in just a year and then increase that again to 55 mbps in year two.

He added that Dito would also cover the country with 5G in as fast as five years.

Despite Duterte's warm relations with China, the Philippines has a long history of mistrust of it as the two countries continue to spar over the resource-rich South China Sea.

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