The Philippines is not inclined to block the use of Huawei in the country without any specific evidence to prove allegations that its network or equipment is being used for espionage or any other anomalous cyber activities.
“Our stand in the Philippines is that we cannot block something that has no scientific, engineering or IT (information technology)-processed evidence,” Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Allan Cabanlong told reporters on Wednesday.
The DICT official was responding to questions on whether the Philippines should heed the United States’ call for countries to ban Huawei equipment, especially its 5G technology, alleging it is embedded with backdoors that will allow the Chinese government to spy or provide Chinese government access to the traffic that flows through its equipment.
Early this month, US State Secretary Michael Pompeo warned the Philippines that the use of technology from the giant Chinese telecommunications firm poses risk to Filipinos and may prevent the US from operating its own equipment in the Philippines.
“Our task has been to share with the world the risks associated with that technology, the risks to the Filipino people, the risk to Philippine security,” Pompeo said during his recent visit in Manila.
Cabanlong, however, said the U.S. has yet to share to other countries, including the Philippines if there is enough evidence to prove its allegations against Huawei.
“If the U.S. has evidence, then they should have shared it to other countries so we can prove it. As of now, there’s none, only information. They can share it with us through our interior channel. It would be better so we will have proof to block. But right now there’s none,” said Cabanlong who was formerly a cyber security officer of the Philippine National Police.
Cabanlong pointed out that as an independent and democratic country, the Philippines has its own set of rules and own set of laws to follow.
“So far, we have not seen any evidence,” he said.
Also, Cabanlong assured that allegations against Huawei “should not be a cause for alarm” to the public since the 5G technology being referred to is a “new technology that has not yet been tested in the Philippines.”
He mentioned that new cybersecurity measures will be deployed under DICT to ensure the data coming in and out of the country are monitored to stop being “exfiltrated or hacked by a third party player.”
“We are building the platform so that we can test everything especially if it’s government project because we want to assure the public that the systems that we are using, whether it came from China, from the U.S. or from any other countries, are tested and safe to use,” he said.
The ICT laboratory, which is now under construction, is part of the broader Cyber Security Management System – a project that aims to monitor and protect the country from threats coming in and out, and to assure the public that all the data that should be in the Philippines would not be hacked by a third party.
“This project is very important in our participation in conducting due diligence on cyberspace. Yes, we are adopting continuous due diligence. But right now, there’s no scientific evidence on Huawei conducting espionage in the Philippines,” said Cabanlong who authored the country’s officially-adopted cybersecurity roadmap.