By Martin Sadongdong
The Department of National Defense (DND) is confident that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) evaluated the proposal of the Dito Telecommunity Corporation to build its communication facilities in military camps and installations, a Defense spokesperson disclosed Tuesday.
However, Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong clarified that it is not unusual for the Department to exercise due diligence in scrutinizing all the deals being entered into by the AFP.
“We believe the AFP vetted and evaluated that proposal. On our part, we will exercise due diligence in evaluating also the memorandum of agreement to make sure that all of our requirements, and of course whatever issues may come up, are addressed properly,” Andolong said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“[We are concerned] not in the MOA per se but on the fact that facilities will be built [within camps] because we want to know its impact in our own security. This is critical because it involves a telecom (company), so we are concerned but not unusually,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is currently in an official trip abroad, earlier said he will scrutinize the MOA before he gives his approval for its implementation.
READ MORE: Defense chief to scrutinize AFP-Dito deal
“I am traveling when this came out. When I inquired, the CSAFP (AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr.) said the MOA is going to my office for my approval. So now I am aware of it and I will scrutinize it carefully before giving my approval,” he said on Monday.
The MOA states that the AFP “will determine specific locations with its rental value for use of [Mislatel] in the installation and management of its communication sites without undermining the operations of affected AFP units.”
Fears of possible espionage were raised after the AFP inked a pact with the China-backed Dito Telecommunity last September 11 to build its communication facilities in military camps and installations.
Dito Telecommunity, formerly Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company or Mislatel, is a consortium of Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Udenna Corp., and China Telecom.
Tension between the Philippines and China was recently escalated due to a number of issues in the disputed waters in South China Sea, where both countries are claiming parts of it as their own territory.
Issues range from the reported intrusion of Chinese vessels in Philippine waters to establishment of Chinese-operated Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) built near military camps which also raised fears of espionage.
However, President Duterte earlier downplayed the issues and said as a matter of fact that any country can spy on the Philippines even from afar.