De Lima welcomes Senate decision to block funds for CCTV project

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has welcomed the Senate’s decision to block funds for the multibillion-peso Chinese-funded surveillance system project of the Duterte administration that has since raised security concerns.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, lauded her Senate colleagues for recognizing the importance of transparency in dealing with foreign-assisted projects, especially with China.

“I commend the Senate for seriously evaluating and reviewing the ‘Safe Philippines’ project and asserting that funds from the taxpayers’ money should not be used to finance it. Not only is the project lacking in transparency, it also poses serious national security concerns,” she said.

“We should never compromise the public’s rights, let alone our country’s national security, when entering into any deals or agreements with foreign countries, much less China whose interests are opposed to ours,” she added.

In the Senate-approved 2019 General Appropriations Bill, a “block payment” provision for Chinese-funded project called “Safe Philippines” was included for supposed lack of study and transparency, among others.

The PhP20-billion project involves the installation of an initial 12,000 closed-circuit television (CCTV) security cameras in public areas in Metro Manila and Davao City.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) signed the agreement with China International Telecommunication Construction Corporation (CITCC) for the installation the said CCTV security cameras during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the country last November.

Under the contract entered between the DILG and CITCC, the Chinese multinational telecommunication equipment and consumer electronics company Huawei – whose integrity was questioned by countries such as Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia – is tasked to supply the equipment requirements of the project.

“By blocking this Chinese-funding project, the government is protecting the Philippine economy and the country’s national security, while respecting the privacy of the Filipino public which could be threatened by the installation of these CCTV security cameras,” the lady Senator from Bicol said.

Last December, De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 978 which urges the appropriate Senate committee to inquire into the loan deal between the DILG and the CITCC to find out if the CCTV security camera network project violates the right to privacy of the citizenry.

In filing the said resolution, De Lima said that “granting China, a country fast gaining international notoriety for its aggressive espionage activities, the opportunity to create a surveillance system in our country should raise a red flag for our policymakers.” As early as in November 2016, she also filed Senate Resolution No. 222 which seeks to inquire into the various investment deals entered into by the Duterte administration during the President’s State Visit to China in October 2016.

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