China-backed telecom firm says won’t spy on Philippines

Like competitors Globe and PLDT, DITO also uses equipment from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE . (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 September 2020

China-backed telecom firm says won’t spy on Philippines

  • The Philippine government last week allowed DITO Telecommunity Corp to erect towers on military land for its $5.15 billion entry into the market
  • China Telecom owns 40% of DITO

MANILA: A new Philippine telecoms firm with Chinese state investment on Thursday described as “truly misplaced” concerns that communications equipment it will install at military camps will be used for spying.
The Philippine government last week allowed DITO Telecommunity Corp, a joint venture between state-run China Telecom and a tycoon close to President Rodrigo Duterte, to erect towers on military land for its $5.15 billion entry into the market, which includes 5G technology.
The consortium was the only qualified bidder in a 2018 license auction that followed months of Duterte saying he had offered China a spot in the Philippines’ telecom sector. China Telecom owns 40% of DITO.
But some lawmakers complain DITO could be a “Trojan Horse” for spying, including on a military allied with the United States.
“We are not at war with China so this concern about espionage and spying I feel is truly misplaced,” Adel Tamano, a top DITO official, told a news conference.
DITO’s equipment and devices are not a security risk, Tamano said, adding that it is investing heavily in cybersecurity.
No Chinese personnel will be allowed inside camps, he said, and a retired Philippine general and telecoms expert had been hired to ensure cybersecurity.
However, former Supreme Court judge Antonio Carpio, a staunch critic of Duterte’s pro-China stance, in a newspaper column on Thursday said Beijing “would surely eavesdrop.” Opposition lawmaker Risa Hontiveros wants a senate probe on DITO’s military deal.
Like competitors Globe and PLDT, DITO also uses equipment from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE .
DITO is 60% controlled by Duterte associate Dennis Uy, whose conglomerate Udenna is partnering in big projects with several other Chinese state firms in energy and construction.
Among those is a US-blacklisted company involved in China’s building of a missile-equipped artificial South China Sea island that the Philippines sees as a national security threat. Udenna has acknowledged its Chinese partner’s involvement.


NATO says Greece and Turkey cancel military exercises

Updated 23 October 2020

NATO says Greece and Turkey cancel military exercises

  • “This is a very welcome step,” Stoltenberg said after a videoconference of NATO defense ministers
  • Turkey has deployed a gas exploration vessel under military escort into Greek waters

BRUSSELS: Turkey and Greece have agreed to cancel rival military exercises that were to have been held next week on their respective national days, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.
The neighbors, while NATO members, are at loggerheads over energy drilling and maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean and the alliance has set up a hotline to head off accidental clashes.
“This is a very welcome step,” Stoltenberg said after a videoconference of NATO defense ministers, including Greece’s Nikos Panagiotopoulos and Turkey’s Hulusi Akar.
“These are steps in the right direction, and it helps to reduce the risks for instance and accidents.”
Greece had been expected to conduct exercises on Wednesday October 28, its Oxi Day holiday, and Turkey on Thursday, celebrated there as Republic Day.
Turkey has deployed the Oruc Reis, a gas exploration vessel under military escort into Greek waters off the island of Kastellorizo, and Greek vessels are nearby.
Addressing a news conference after two days of talks on a variety of topics, Stoltenberg confirmed he had raised the situation with the Greek and Turkish ministers.
“I will say that we had a good and constructive talks and allies expressed a strong support for the NATO de-confliction mechanism,” Stoltenberg said.
“I welcome now the fact that we have been able to see some concrete steps in that direction with the cancelation of the two exercises.”
French Defense Minister Florence Parly also hailed the decisions to cancel the military exercises, stressing the need to “respect international law and restore stability in the region.”
Stoltenberg also welcomed Germany’s diplomatic mediation in the underlying dispute.
On Thursday, he had warned that — while NATO could help keep the rival militaries apart — it would be down to Ankara and Athens to open a dialogue to resolve their long-standing differences.