'We are a Filipino companyâ: Dito assures public amid fears of 'spying', 'intrusion'
File photo shows cell site.
The STAR/File
'We are a Filipino company’: Dito assures public amid fears of 'spying', 'intrusion'
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - September 17, 2020 - 2:06pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:12 p.m.) — After the military announced that it would seek extra precautions in its deal with Dito Telecommunity Corp., the company is reiterating its assurance that its loyalty lies with the Philippines.

In an event with media on Thursday, the telco's chief administrative officer Adel Tamano denied that the telco is backed by China.

"China Telecom merely provides support to the local Dito management team. Their involvement is technical advice and support. We are not backed by China, management control is with Filipinos," Tamano said.

"We should reconsider complaining why we're partnering with [China Telecom]. They are the way forward to bring 5G to the Philippines," he further argued, referring to fifth-generation wireless networks.

Dito CME is under the Udenna Group of Companies. Filipino-Chinese businessman Dennis Uy, a friend of President Rodrigo Duterte, is the chairman and CEO of Udenna.

"We chose a Filipino name, 'Dito,' to show we really are a Filipino company," Tamano said.

READ: AFP eyes more provisions in deal with China-backed Dito to protect networks from 'intrusion'

Tamano: Dito not bound by China's intelligence laws

In addition to this, Tamano claimed that Dito is "not compelled to comply with China's National Intelligence Law," a law that several lawmakers cited in their objections to the deal.

Article 7 of the Chinese National Intelligence Law says that "any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law."

Additionally, China's 2014 Counter-Espionage Law prohibits Chinese corporations from refusing to assist their government in this regard.

Article 22 of the law says that "when state security organs investigate to learn of espionage conduct or gather relevant evidence, relevant organizations and individuals shall truthfully provide and must not refuse."

Tamano also argued that if the deal was approved by the AFP, the Department of National Defense, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, then the public should trust that the cell sites will not be used for spying.

Critics of the deal have pointed out that both Esperson and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have previously raised security concerns over the proximity of Chinese citizens and companies to the military.

RELATED: Lorenzana urged to rescind deal allowing China-backed telco to build cell sites in military camps | Senate probe sought into allowing China-backed telco to build cell sites in military camps

Lorenzana in August last year flagged the proximity of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) to military camps, warning that they might shift their operations to spying.

Meanwhile, Esperon in July last year said he considered the influx of Chinese nationals in the country as a threat.

According to Tamano, there is already a provision in its agreement with AFP that says any attempt to use the sites to obtain sensitive information would be grounds to terminate the deal.

He also said that the deal does not allow foreigners to access military camps.

Tamano further assured that retired AFP Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Santiago, the telco's chief technology officer, "would not allow things like spying to be done."

Rodolfo, in turn, said that the extra provisions sought by the AFP in crafting the MOA likely had to do with the concerns raised by the public since the deal was first announced. 


Editor's note: An earlier version of the article showed that China Telecom Corp. owns 40% of Dito CME. This has been corrected.

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