A SWORD of Damocles appears to hang over the Philippines’ third telco as fears over China Telecommunications’ security risks have gained ground in the United States.
The US Federal Communications Commission has moved to stop China Telecom (Americas) Corporation’s operation in the US for security reasons.
No less than FCC chair Ajit Pail stressed that the Chinese government mandates firms like China Telecom to covertly siphon sensitive information and to intercept US communications.
China Telecom and three other telcos have also been issued a show cause order by the FCC “demanding evidence to prove that they are not at the behest of the Chinese Government“.
Aside from the FCC, the US Departments of Defense, Commerce, Justice and State and Homeland Security have also shared concerns on Chinese government’s control over China Telecom and the three other Chinese telcos.
The same apprehension over China Telecom’s security risks, particularly in the country’s telecommunications’ industry, is being echoed by Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senate Majority Floor leader, and Senator Grace Poe.
“China Telecom is a Chinese company, what if the Chinese government says — you have access there…you are mandated to turn over information to us because we have the National Intelligence Law and the counter-Espionage Law,” Pangilinan has said of ChinaTel.
Pangilinan has repeatedly cited the security risk posed by the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Dito-ChinaTel allowing the setting up of communications facilities and cell towers within the military camps.
Meanwhile, SCPS chair Sen. Grace Poe, in last week’s hearing, expressed dismay over the failure of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Security Council (NSC) to assure question the Philippines’ ability to combat the raging cybersecurity warfare.
Poe also questioned the preparedness of Dito-ChinaTel to fulfill its commitment over the first five years to deliver their services and to fund its telco project.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros has also noted DICT’s warning that the government will revoke the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity granted to Dito if it fails to operate in 2021.
Initial failures in complying with its committed delivery of service, does not augur well for a franchise of 25 years long, Hontiveros said, adding that “besides there are many issues with China evolving in the region for the coming years“.