De Lima seeks Senate inquiry into ‘Safe Philippines Project’ Phase 1

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Senator Leila M. de Lima wants to inquire into the implementation of the Phase 1 of the Chinese-funded “Safe Philippines Project” which would install more than 10,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) security cameras in public areas in Metro Manila and Davao City.

In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 275, De Lima urged her colleagues to look into the initial implementation of the deal between the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the China International Telecommunications and Construction Corp. (CITCC) to ensure protection of national security and State secrets.

“Granting a country whose global reputation for its forceful espionage activities has raised worldwide concern, the opportunity to create a surveillance system in our country should raise a red flag for our policymakers to ensure that none of our national interests are compromised by such agreements, particularly our national security,” she said.

“Commercial contracts with companies whose international operations have put at risk the right of the people to privacy, entails careful scrutiny and utmost diligence in order to prevent abuses and violation of rights,” she added.

Last year, the Philippine government signed 29 deals with China, including the contract between the DILG and state-owned CITCC for the installation of a ₱20-billion network of security cameras in public places around Metro Manila and Davao City.

Under the multibillion contract, the Chinese multinational telecommunication equipment and consumer electronics company Huawei will supply the equipment requirements of the multi-billion project called “Safe Philippines.”

During the 17th Congress, several senators expressed concern over the vetting and approval of the “Safe Philippines Project” they deemed a threat to the country’s national security. The project, however, was formally launched in Marikina City last month.

The first phase of the project will reportedly use an advanced information and communication technology that will involve video monitoring, multimedia critical communication, information management and command center systems.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, maintained that the people’s right to privacy requires for a Senate scrutiny into the information sought to be collected through surveillance using equipment sourced from Chinese firms under the questioned project.

“The matter of improving the country’s technological capability in the enforcement of laws must be put on a scale to strike a balance between gaining technological competence and yielding access to information from our country and our citizens,” she said.

Cautioning against any deals with China, De Lima cited the contract between China and Zimbabwe for the use of the former’s CloudWalk technology for a surveillance program, which was put under spotlight after legal loopholes made it possible for Zimbabwe to share the data of millions of its citizens with China.

De Lima said the Senate inquiry is to “determine the extent of these Chinese companies access to information relating to classified information, national security, national defense, military and diplomatic secrets, and other confidential matters of the State.”

In the 17th Congress, De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 978 which called for an inquiry into the PhP20-billion loan agreement for the installation of CCTV security cameras in public areas in Metro Manila and Davao City in just 30 months. (30)

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