ARMED Forces chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay yesterday said China-backed company Dito Telecommunity Corp. has proposed to put up communication towers inside at least 22 military camps throughout the country.
The proposal is being reviewed by the military, Gapay said in an online press briefing organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
The defense department recently allowed Dito, a joint venture between state-run China Telecom and a tycoon close to President Duterte, to put up towers inside military camps despite security concerns raised by some quarters.
“Initially, there are 22 sites they are proposing and this will be evaluated one by one. It’s not en masse, 22. They will be reviewed one by one and its a tedious process, what kind of equipment here, what kind of equipment there, their capacity,” said Gapay.
“There are still, two, three steps before finally they could put up facilities inside camp, just like the process we adopted when we allowed Globe and Smart to locate (towers) inside military bases,” he added.
There are concerns that the towers to be installed by the country’s third telco firm will be used by China to spy on the country. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are involved in a territorial dispute over the South China Sea.
Gapay said the military conducted an assessment of risks from the establishment of Dito towers inside military camps.
“As far as the security aspect is concerned, putting up of towers and communication facilities inside camps poses a low risk,” he said.
Gapay noted the Armed Forces is using its own communications system in disseminating classified information. “We are utilizing commercial ones only for unclassified information, so this is one of the safety measures we are adopting in the Armed Forces,” he said.
He said it is “better” if Dito towers are put up inside military camps “because could have unannounced inspection, we could inspect them midnight, anytime of the night, early morning, wee hours, we can do that if they are inside. So there is that full control of their operations.”