SENATOR Leila de Lima has sought a Senate inquiry into the P20-billion loan agreement with a Chinese telecommunications firm to fund the installation of an initial 12,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) security cameras in public areas in Metro Manila and Davao City.
De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 978 which urges the appropriate Senate committee to look into the loan deal between the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the China International Telecommunications and Construction Corp. (CITCC).
She said the Senate probe specifically seeks to find out if the CCTV security camera network project entered into with a state-owned Chinese telecommunication firm would infringe on the constitutionally-guaranteed right of privacy of the Filipino public and our country’s national security.
“Public interest requires that inquiry be made as to the threats to the Philippines’ national security contracts entered into with foreign companies whose questionable track-record raises international concern,” she said.
“The right of the people to privacy necessitates that an inquiry be made into the information sought to be collected through surveillance using equipment sourced from these Chinese companies,” she added.
The P20-billion loan agreement for the installation of an initial 12,000 CCTV security cameras in just 30 months was one of the 29 agreements signed during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping last November 20.
These security cameras will be installed at crossings, roads, public plazas, business districts, science and technology parks, residential areas and stadiums, among others. The system includes a national command center to be located in Clark, Pampanga.
Under the contract signed by the DILG and CITCC, the Chinese multinational telecommunication equipment and consumer electronics company Huawei will reportedly supply the equipment requirements of the multi-billion peso project.
De Lima, however, pointed out that at least five countries, such as Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and United States, have doubted the integrity of Huawei-provided technology as they cited serious national security concerns.
The lady senator from Bicol noted that Australia is preparing to ban Huawei from supplying equipment after its intelligence agencies raised concerns that Beijing could force the Chinese telco to hand over sensitive data.
She also cited the warning of US Intelligence agencies against the use of smartphones made by Huawei on the ground that the Chinese telco has the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information, and even to conduct undetected espionage.
The former justice secretary explained that the Senate should determine the extent of these Chinese firms’ access to information relating to classified information, national security and defense, military and diplomatic secrets, and other confidential or sensitive matters.
“Any agreement that could compromise the rights of our citizens and our national security must first pass through strict scrutiny to ensure that it would not be violative of our Constitution,” she said.