AFP dismisses espionage fears over Dito towers in military camps

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    THE Armed Forces yesterday allayed fears that allowing Dito Telecommunity (formerly Mislatel) to put up towers and other communication facilities in military camps might allow for Chinese espionage and compromise national security.

    AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military management has exhaustively discussed the concern and addressed it even before it made the decision to forge a memorandum of agreement with Dito to co-locate its facilities in military camps where the two major telecoms players, Globe and Smart, already have existing facilities.

    “The AFP has already put up appropriate safeguards to address that particular concern on security and data security in telecommunications,” Arevalo said.

    “If the people and our lawmakers are concerned about the security of our country, especially matters of national security, that is even a primordial concern of the Armed Forces…We are not going to allow security to be imperiled or put into danger because that is our primary concern,” he added.

    Arevalo said the military conducted a thorough study of the partnership before signing the agreement with Dito.

    Arevalo said facilities that will be put up by Dito, which will be similar to those set up by Globe and Smart, will not be co-located with the communications facility of the Armed Forces.

    “What we are providing them is the venue where we will be able to lend them relative security, under the memorandum of agreement. The AFP knows these locations are the best areas to propagate signal,” he said.

    Arevalo said Dito Telecommunity, named as the country’s third major telco player in November 2018, passed government scrutiny, especially by the Securities and Exchange Commission and National Telecommunications Communication, “when it comes to its fitness to do business in the Philippines.”

    Several groups have opposed the agreement, among them Sen. Francis Pangilinan, and expressed alarm that such facilities could be used by China for electronic espionage.

    To ensure that the Philippine government’s security is not put at risk with the military decision, Pangilinan had sought a copy of the memorandum of agreement so it can be scrutinized.

    “How can we be assured that there will be no breach of national security and respect for privacy of communications and correspondence? Do we have guarantees that they will not obtain crucial information to the detriment of Filipinos? What happened to the cyber security audit of the DICT and the NTC on this third player?” Pangilinan had asked.