AFP eyes more provisions in deal with China-backed Dito to protect networks from intrusion

Maj. Gen. Jose Niembra, AFP intelligence chief, said the military wants Filipino engineers exclusively working on the cell towers to be built by Dito Telecommunity Corp. as well as complete access to these sites once they are built. 

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MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it wants to include additional provisions in its recently inked deal with a China-backed telco that would safeguard its networks from intrusion. 

Maj. Gen. Jose Niembra, AFP intelligence chief, said the military wants Filipino engineers exclusively working on the cell towers to be built by Dito Telecommunity Corp. as well as complete access to these sites once they are built. 

As he faced a panel of the Commission on Appointments on Wednesday, Niembra revealed to lawmakers that these additional precautions were being considered due to the fact that 40% of Dito is owned by a Chinese corporation. 

China Telecom Corporation owns 40% of Dito CME while Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp. own 35% and 25%, respectively.

"Actually, there are already Smart and Globe cell sites in military camps all over the country...and we have not experienced any problem so far. The question is with Dito communications because we perceive that because of its Chinese nature, there may be threats," he said. 

Although he downplayed their likelihood, the AFP intelligence chief further specified radio frequency interception, eaves dropping, or radio frequency jamming as the possible threats being considered by the military. 

Niembra also listed three additional provisions that the military is considering adding to its memorandum of agreement with Dito to safeguard against any possible intrusion of its networks: 

"All of this is to make sure that we will prevent intrusion or breaching of our own networks. Aside from the fact that we have competent technical people to see to it that our communications will not be breached," he added. 

The AFP intelligence chief also reiterated an assurance made by Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman, last week, deemphasizing the risk that the militarys network could be compromised. 

"All the technical people in the Armed Forces found the risk to be low. So there is a low risk or very low possibility that the cell sites might intrude into our networks," he said. 

Soon after the deal with Dito was announced by the Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week, it was met with strong objections from several lawmakers. 

Critics of the agreement include Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro), Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, and Sens. Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan. 

"I think it’s very dumb of us to allow those towers to be installed inside military camps,” Carpio said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source last week. 

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