Gov't says has 'safeguards' if China tapped as third telco

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2018 07:40 PM | Updated as of Jan 23 2018 08:05 PM

MANILA - The government on Tuesday allayed fears of data security breach if China enters the market as a telecommunications player, saying there are enough safeguards in place. 

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez had voiced concern over partial ownership of Chinese entities in "sensitive industries," such as the national grid and telecommunications, as these may lead to national security threats considering its unresolved dispute with the Philippines over the South China Sea.

During a House hearing, Suarez cited the decision of United States regulatory agencies to ban Chinese firms from participating in bidding as contractors for services, calling it a national security threat due to espionage.
Acting Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio said Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc., which currently dominate the telecommunications industry, are using Chinese systems.

"[The] third telco must have its own cybersecurity, which we can monitor as DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) because that is our mandate: to ensure that our critical infrastructure like telecommunications, electricity, transport, water may be well protected," Rio told lawmakers.

"The question then is if it is actually China Telecom coming in as partner of a third player, how dangerous is that for us? But your honor, both Globe and Smart are already using Chinese systems, Chinese products. In their own responsibility, they are protecting their own system, even if these equipment coming from Huawei, ZTE are now in their network. In fact, Globe had an overhaul of their network way back 2012 and lock, stock and barrel, changed to Huawei systems," he said.
Sherwin De Joya, manager of Smart Communications' legal and regulatory department, the mobile arm of PLDT, said that while they are using Chinese systems, access is limited and there are security protocols in place.

President Rodrigo Duterte had said he wants a third player to challenge the dominance of PLDT and Globe up and running by the first quarter, citing poor service. 

Rio said it is not yet certain that China Telecom will be chosen by a Filipino consortium that is still in the process of finalizing their organization. He said South Korean and Japanese companies are also being considered.