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De Lima wants Senate inquiry on 3rd telco player selection

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By Hannah Torregoza

Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday pushed for a Senate inquiry into the government’s selection process for a third telecommunication company in the Philippines saying there is a need for greater transparency to secure the country’s information and telecommunication infrastructures against possible cyber attacks.

Sen. Leila de Lima (PRIB Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/2 August 2016/Manila Bulletin)

Sen. Leila de Lima (PRIB Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/ /Manila Bulletin File Photo)

In filing Senate Resolution No. 603, De Lima expressed serious concern over Duterte’s apparent partiality to pick a telecommunications firm from China as the country’s third telco carrier.

“There is a need for greater transparency in the selection process to ensure that all factors are considered, including the matter of national security especially since the President has all but instructed the DICT to pick the Chinese telecom,” de Lima said.

She said there is a need for a thorough Congressional scrutiny to ensure that the entry of the new telco player would not jeopardize the country’s information and telecommunications infrastructure.

Since last year, Duterte has publicly announced he wants a third telecommunications firm to be running within the first quarter of 2018 in a bid to force telco giants—Smart Communications and Globe Telecom—to improve their services.

The Philippines has yet to choose from China, Japan, South Korean and Taiwan for a third telco player.

Duterte, however, has already expressed his preference for China to be the country’s third telecommunications carrier.

The lawmaker noted that state-run China Telecom Corp. Ltd., KDDI Corp. of Japan, LG Uplus Corp. of South Korea, and an unidentified Taiwanese company are so far the only ones reportedly interested in setting up operations in the Philippines in partnership with local firms.

The detained senator, however, cited that a study conducted by a local brokerage firm, Papa Securities, raised the issue of security risks China Telecom brings as its main obstacle for its expansion in the Philippines.

According to de Lima, the study revealed that there were 76 state-sponsored cyber-attacks linked with China since 2005. About 75 of the cases are primarily espionage in nature while 44 of these state-sponsored attacks targeted towards the US during the period.

De Lima said the government should not forget that the Philippines has also experienced being on the receiving end of Chinese cyber-attacks.

She recalled that on July 12, 2016, Chinese hackers launched a series of online attacks against Filipino government networks as the court in The Hague rejected China’s historic territorial claims in the South China Sea, locally referred as West Philippine Sea.

“The breach of these networks follows a string of Chinese cyber-attacks targeting Southeast Asian claimants to the disputed waters, coinciding with times of heightened geopolitical tensions,” she said.

She pointed out that the first major cyber campaign against the Philippines is connected to the territorial dispute that occurred in April 2012—after a tense stand-off between Chinese and Filipino vessels at the Scarborough Shoal.

At that time, she said a Chinese cyber unit breached government and military networks in the Philippines, and stole military documents and other highly sensitive communications related to the conflict.

“We cannot easily trust any third player to the Philippine telecommunications market, much less, if it’s China whose interests are diametrically opposed to ours, especially in respect to the West Philippine Sea issue,” she said. (Hannah Torregoza)

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