AFP mulls amending DITO cell tower pact to add more safety provisions

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2020 05:30 PM

MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Wednesday it might add provisions to the approved pact between them and China-backed DITO Telecommunity following concerns about potential espionage. 

Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra, head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), told senators during his confirmation hearing that they may require DITO to employ Filipino engineers as one of the additional safeguards. 

Filipino engineers would be involved from the installation of the cell towers within select military camps up to the maintenance of the facilities. 

Niembra insisted they have detected "low risk" of security breach upon assessment of the memorandum of agreement.

"We considered four threats actually. First of all, the RF interception, eavesdropping, radio frequency jamming and the result was that all the technical people in the Armed Forces found the risks to be low. So there's low risk or low possibility that these cell sites might intrude in to our networks," he told lawmakers as he sought their approval to sit as head of AFP's intelligence arm. 

DITO is a consortium of Dennis Uy's Udenna Corp and Chelsea Logistics with China Telecom. 

It was given the go-signal to install cell sites inside the country's military bases, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed last week despite concerns over its national security implications over Chinese involvement in the consortium. 

The third telco is building its network to challenge the duopoly of Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc with its commercial launch set in March 2021.

It earlier said that its equipment, devices and structures that would be constructed in military bases will not be used to obtain classified information. —Reports from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News