De Lima seeks Senate probe into P20B CCTV deal with China

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    SEN. Leila De Lima has called for an inquiry into the implementation of the first phase of the P20 billion China-funded “Safe Philippines Project” that will install more than 10,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) security cameras in public areas in Metro Manila and Davao City.

    In filing Senate Resolution No. 275, De Lima said senators must look into the initial implementation of the deal between the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the China International Telecommunications and Construction Corp. (CITCC) to ensure protection of national security and state secrets.

    The project was initially implemented in Marikina City with the installation of 234 CCTV cameras in 80 identified areas in the city.

    “Granting a country whose global reputation for its forceful espionage activities has raised worldwide concern, the opportunity to create a surveillance system in our country should raise a red flag for our policymakers to ensure that none of our national interests are compromised by such agreements, particularly our national security,” De Lima said in a statement.

    “Commercial contracts with companies whose international operations have put at risk the right of the people to privacy, entails careful scrutiny and utmost diligence in order to prevent abuses and violation of rights,” she added.

    The proposed Senate inquiry seeks to “determine the extent of these Chinese companies access to information relating to classified information, national security, national defense, military and diplomatic secrets, and other confidential matters of the State.”

    A similar resolution was filed by Senate president pro tempore Ralph Recto as early as January last year.

    In November 2018, the Philippine government signed 29 deals with China, including the contract between the DILG and state-owned CITCC for the installation of a P20-billion network of security cameras in public places around Metro Manila and Davao City.

    Under the multibillion contract, Chinese multinational telecommunication equipment and consumer electronics company Huawei will supply the equipment requirements of the project.

    The first phase of the project will reportedly use an advanced information and communication technology that will involve video monitoring, multimedia critical communication, information management and command center systems.

    “The matter of improving the country’s technological capability in the enforcement of laws must be put on a scale to strike a balance between gaining technological competence and yielding access to information from our country and our citizens,” De Lima said.

    Cautioning against any deals with China, De Lima cited the contract between China and Zimbabwe for the use of the former’s CloudWalk technology for a surveillance program, which was put under the spotlight after legal loopholes made it possible for Zimbabwe to share the data of millions of its citizens with China.

    In the 17th Congress, De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 978 which called for an inquiry into the P20-billion loan agreement.