Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced last Sept. 8 that he had finally approved the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Dito Telecommunity Corp. (Dito), allowing Dito to “co-locate” its communications equipment in all military camps throughout the country. The communications equipment refers to Dito’s “microwave relay and base transceiver station for mobile communication and tower facilities.” What is wrong with this MOA?
First, Dito is 60 percent owned by a Filipino group led by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy and 40 percent by China Telecom Corp. (ChinaTel), a state-owned corporation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the seventh largest telecommunications company in the world. Admittedly, the Filipino group has no expertise or experience in the telecommunications business. Thus, ChinaTel will in effect source, install, and maintain Dito’s communications equipment. As a wholly-owned state corporation, ChinaTel is controlled by the PRC government, which in turn is under the iron grip of the Chinese Communist Party. ChinaTel is bound by China’s National Intelligence Law, Article 7 of which states, “Any organization or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and maintain the secrecy of all knowledge of state intelligence work.”
If China’s state intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security, tells ChinaTel to install backdoors or spyware in the communications equipment to be supplied to Dito, ChinaTel will certainly “support, assist and cooperate.” Since the Philippine military is tasked to resist China’s continuing aggression in the West Philippine Sea, China’s Ministry of State Security will surely want to eavesdrop on Philippine military communications by planting backdoors and spyware whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. It is obvious that China’s Ministry of State Security will dictate on ChinaTel in the sourcing and installation of Dito’s communications equipment in military camps throughout the country.
The US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand, four of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, have banned Chinese 5G equipment because of the Chinese law mandating Chinese companies to cooperate with China’s Ministry of State Security. Canada, the fifth member of the Five Eyes, will soon decide whether to follow the ban, which is a requirement by the US for sharing intelligence information. Since China has seized and is continuing to seize Philippine geologic features and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea, the AFP will be grossly negligent if it allows Dito, through ChinaTel, to install communications equipment within military camps, knowing that the technologically advanced Five Eyes countries have banned the installation of Chinese 5G communications equipment anywhere within their territory.
Second, the MOA provides that Dito shall pay rent to the AFP for the use of the premises in military camps. Payment by Dito, however, will not be in cash but in (a) services for the “design, development, upgrade of AFP information systems, products and services from affiliates (of Dito) like videoconferencing, IPVPN, application services and consultancy,” and (b) the “supply, delivery and installation of fix(ed) and mobile CEIS equipment and accessories.”
In short, Dito through ChinaTel, which takes instructions from China’s Ministry of State Security, will provide the AFP its new information systems as well as its fixed and mobile communications equipment. China’s Ministry of State Security will surely be salivating to inject backdoors and spyware into the AFP’s information systems and communications equipment. All of this will be taking place while the Chinese Navy relentlessly encroaches on the Philippines’ EEZ in the West Philippine Sea. Incidentally, the MOA empowers Dito, and thus ChinaTel, to conduct the bidding for the communications equipment and services to be procured by the AFP, a clear violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Lastly, the MOA requires that Dito “guarantees that the devices, equipment and/or structures installed at the site provided by the AFP shall not be used by the co-locator and/or any other entity to obtain classified information from the AFP.” Dito’s guarantee is only as good as the guarantee of ChinaTel, which under Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law is bound to “maintain the secrecy of all knowledge of state intelligence work.” This guarantee requirement in the MOA is in effect asking China’s principal spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, to guarantee that it will not spy on the AFP.