Cause-oriented group insists AFP-Dito deal will ‘threaten national, cyber security’

Published October 21, 2019, 11:37 AM

by Gabriela Baron & Minka Klaudia Tiangco

By Chito Chavez

A cause-oriented group has insisted that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s intent to approve a co-location deal between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Dito Telecommunity (Dito) could threaten national and cyber security.

Former Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon (photo courtesy of  PCUP Chair Terry Ridon’s Facebook page)
Former Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon (photo courtesy of PCUP Chair Terry Ridon’s Facebook page)

“Only persons born yesterday would fail to see the grave security implications of allowing a telco with links with a territorial adversary to install equipment and facilities within our military camps. This is the most important policy distinction between Dito and the co-location deals with Globe and Smart. The foreign partners of Globe and Smart are not our territorial adversaries,”argued former Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon and now Infrawatch PH convenor.

Ridon also is a former member of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Committee at the House of Representatives.

The former lawmaker, who studied cybersecurity at the Harvard Kennedy School, said that no less than Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “without cybersecurity, there is no national security.”

This, Ridon stressed, basically means that cyber and telco activities of Chinese state companies are expected to serve the security interests of China.

Dito, has China Telecom, a Chinese state-owned company, as its main partner.

“In fact, China Telecom’s website itself defines its clear political objectives, in which it undertakes itself to be ‘a main force for building a cyber power,’ and pursues the current Chinese political ideology of Xi Jinping Thought.” Ridon argued.

The Infrawatch PH convenor said these statements show that China Telecom will not be a mere technical partner providing Dito with technology and infrastructure.

“This shows that Dito will ultimately be within the political framework of China Telecom to allow China to become a leading cyber power in the region. Given that Dito’s Filipino partners have absolutely no previous technical experience at all in telecoms, this is a possibility if left unchecked by our security sector,” Ridon warned.

A month ago, US senators asked the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its national security agencies to review whether China Telecom and China Unicom should be allowed to operate in the US or not due to concerns about Chinese spying.

“The review proposal is based on concerns that these telcos supposedly ‘hijack’ telecommunications traffic by redirecting it through China. In fact, several articles and papers, including one made by analysts from the US Naval War College and Tel Aviv University, have made observations that China Telecom rerouted 15 percent of the world’s internet prefixes, which impacted government, military and popular websites,” Ridon warned.

He said these are hard cybersecurity questions which Dito, and now, Lorenzana should resolve, if they want to assuage public concerns on the integrity of its telecoms service.

“These are matters which we hope Secretary Lorenzana will consider in determining whether to approve the AFP-Dito deal. In as much as we would like to break the telco duopoly, we cannot do it at the expense of national and cybersecurity,” Ridon concluded.