To secure the country’s information and telecommunication infrastructures against any threats or attacks, Senator Leila de Lima has called for a Senate investigation into the ongoing selection of a third telecommunications operator in the country.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 603, De Lima also expressed serious concern over Duterte’s apparent partiality to pick a telecommunications (telco) firm from China as the country’s third telecommunications 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,” she said.
“There must be a thorough congressional scrutiny to ensure that the entry of the new telco player will not jeopardize the security of our information and telecommunications infrastructure,” she added.
Last year, Duterte has publicly announced he wanted 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.
Although the Philippines has yet to choose between telecommunications operator from China, Japan, South Korean and Taiwan, Duterte revealed his biased preference for China to be the country’s third telecommunications carrier.
So far, state-run China Telecom Corp. Ltd., KDDI Corp. of Japan, LG Uplus Corp. of South Korea, and an unidentified Taiwanese company are reportedly interested in setting up operations in the Philippines in partnership with local firms.
De Lima, however, cited a study conducted by a local brokerage firm, Papa Securities, about the security risks China Telecom brings as its main obstacle for its expansion in the Philippines.
The study revealed that “there has been 76 state-sponsored cyber-attacks linked with China since 2005, about 75 of which are primarily espionage in nature while 44 of these state-sponsored attacks targeted towards the US during the period.”
“We should not forget that the Philippines has also experienced being on the receiving end of Chinese cyber-attacks,” she said.
On July 12, 2016, De Lima recalled that 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.
De Lima noted that the first major cyber campaign against the Philippines in connection with the territorial dispute occurred in April 2012, following a tense stand-off between Chinese and Filipino vessels at the Scarborough Shoal.
During the time, she recalled that a Chinese cyber unit breached government and military networks in the Philippines, stealing 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.