Alejano warns of possible 'security disaster' in CCTV deal with Chinese firm

Alejano warns of possible 'security disaster' in CCTV deal with Chinese firm
The commercial contract of Phase 1 of the Safe Philippines project is listed as no. 24 of 29 agreements released by Malacañang as signed during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2018.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government's project with a state-owned Chinese firm may be a risk to national security, Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo Party-list) said Wednesday.

The DILG and China International Telecommunications and Construction Corp. have signed a P20-billion CCTV network project, wherein the Chinese firm would install an initial 12,000 surveillance cameras on public places in Metro Manila and Davao City.

Funding for the project with the Chinese firm would be sourced from the unprogrammed funds amounting to P96 billion in the 2019 budget, which the Congress has not yet approved. The deal was one of the 29 agreements that the Philippines and China signed during President Xi Jinping's state visit in November 2018.

Recognizing the need for peace and security, the opposition lawmaker warned of China's reputation of being a "surveillance state."

"What I don’t agree with is that we are risking to undermine the same sense of security we wish to provide for our people by going on a partnership with a state who has a long and storied career of spying on other governments and worse, its own people," Alejano said in a statement.

Alejano raised concerns that Beijing might use the CCTVs to spy on the Filipino people as it does in its own country.

The senatorial candidate also questioned why the Philippine government was entering into a number of deals with China.

"This persistent coddling of China, despite the clear conflict of interest reeks of a major national security disaster," the lawmaker said.

"We must not let China turn our country into its own version of Pinoy Big Brother. Nobody among us must like being watched especially if it is (President) Xi Jinping and China that would monitor our countrymen," he added.

There have been reports that the Department of Information and Communications Technology was not consulted on this project, Alejano noted.

Sen. Ralph Recto earlier raised the same concern over the contract as it could pose a security threat, noting that telecommunications giant Huawei has been blacklisted in many countries. Under the agreement, Huawei will supply the equipment.

The DILG, on the other hand, had defended the surveillance system contract with the Chinese firm, stressing that the agency will undertake necessary steps to protect data.

“The public doesn’t have to worry about data breaches in the project as there will be no storage of classified data or information inimical to national security in the CCTV system,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said in December.

Late last year, the chief financial officer of Huawei was arrested in Canada after American authorities launched an investigation into suspected Iran sanctions by the Chinese telecommunications firm. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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