AFP on Dito cell sites in military camps: 'Very low' risk of spying
File photo shows Major General Edgard Arevalo who serves as the spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The STAR/Boy Santos
AFP on Dito cell sites in military camps: 'Very low' risk of spying
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - September 11, 2020 - 1:06pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday downplayed the possibility of a security breach following its recently inked deal with China-backed Dito Telecommunity which allows the company to set up cell towers in military camps. 

"It's a low threat in terms of the raised concerns about spying, concerns about listening devices or eavesdropping. We have studied that," Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, told CNN Philippines' "The Source" in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Arevalo further said that while he could not disclose additional details which are matters of national security, the AFP had its experts look into the matter. 

He also cited the endorsement from the National Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Information and Communications Technology, as well as the House's approval of Dito's franchise as factors which were considered by the military. 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday confirmed to the appropriations committee of the House of Representatives that he recently signed a contract submitted to him by Dito Telecommunity Corp.

"The reason why [Lorenzana] signed it already is because na-satisfy naman siya sa pinresent ng (he was satisfied with what was presented by the) AFP in terms of what preparations, what measures have been instituted to ensure that national security will be protected," Arevalo explained Friday.

"We already addressed that, the risk for that possibility is very low...We think this is not a cause of major concern," he aded partially in Filipino. 

National security and sovereignty

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) immediately voiced his objections, raising the possible security issues posed by the deal. 

"Can you imagine that there will be Chinese employees of Dito, who may be spies for China while we have a conflict especially in the West Philippine Sea, entering our camps?” Rodriguez asked during a hearing. 

Rodriguez renewed these objections on Friday, while being interviewed on the same program as Arevalo, saying that even a supposedly minimal security risk should not be overlooked. 

"Whatever risk there, even if it’s low, we have to be on the side of safety, we have to be always on the side of national security and sovereignty. If they admit that there’s a risk, then why should we allow that to happen?" he said. 

The solon further warned that Dito could easily slip listening devices or cameras in its tower equipment but Arevalo said AFP officials take necessary precautions against spying such as turning their cell phones off and leaving the devices outside conference rooms during important meetings. 

READ: Recto on Dito cell sites: Military camps should be no-go zones for possible 'electronic Trojan horse

Dito CME is the publicly listed holding company of Dito Telecommunity.

China Telecom Corporation owns 40% of Dito CME while Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp. own 35% and 25%, respectively. 

Both Udenna and Chelsea Logistics are owned by Filipino-Chinese businessman Dennis Uy, a friend of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Last month, the House plenary voted 240-7-7 to approve on third and final reading a measure that paved the way for a 25-year legislative franchise of Dito Telecommunity Corp. — with a report from The STAR

AFP CHINA DITO TELECOMMUNITY MILITARY
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