Monday, September 30, 2019

Lorenzana to release decision on AFP-Dito deal in a week’s time

From GMA News Online (Sep 30, 2019): Lorenzana to release decision on AFP-Dito deal in a week’s time

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday he will hand down his decision on the deal between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and China-backed Dito Telecommunity Corporation (formerly Mislatel) within the week.

Asked by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon during the budget hearing, Lorenzana said he has yet to receive the recommendation of the DND legal office but he will decide in the interest of the country.

“Soon, like in a week’s time,”
Lorenzana said, to which Drilon replied the people still have a week to pray.

“I trust that you will exercise your good judgment on this. So we have a week to pray. Isang linggo tayong magdadasal nito, Mr. Secretary,” the senator said.

Drilon asked Lorenzana to provide the Senate a copy of the agreement before it is approved.

The Defense secretary said he will amend the agreement allowing Dito to build towers inside 130 military camps if he finds it necessary.

“I am the approving authority. I can remand it back to the AFP general headquarters,” he said.

Lorenzana, however, said the Dito towers will be placed where the towers of Smart Communications and Globe are located.

“The towers of Mislatel will be located where the towers of Globe and Smart are already located. There are 130 place allocations that are all over the country that belongs to the Armed Forces where Globe and Smart are already there since 2000,” he said.

Drilon then pointed out that Smart and Globe are both private entities with private partners while the partners of Dito are China-backed.

“The issue cropped up because the joint venture partner of Mislatel is China Tel and Chinese government has control over China Tel which is different in the situation of Globe and Smart which are purely private entities even if they have foreign equity like Globe would have Sing Tel,” he said.

“Yes they will be located only where Globe and Smart are located but that means that the Chinese government will have 130 listening posts inside our camp. Is that a fair assessment? Is that fear unfounded?” he added.

Lorenzana said it is not fair because China Tel is only a minority investor in Dito and it is still a Filipino company, but Drilon replied the fact remains that China is involved and many Filipinos are concerned especially with the incidents in the West Philippine Sea.

Drilon said the concern is the presence of Chinese company inside the military camps and it is something that should be addressed.

The Defense chief said he will look into the concern and he will talk to the AFP personnel in charge with the facilities to know how the towers are located in the camps. Lorenzana, however, believes the fear is unfounded because both Smart and Globe are using Huawei system, a Chinese company.

Drilon countered that the two telecommunication companies are using Chinese equipment but they do not have Chinese equities.

“Supply and equipment siguro which they can terminate any time, not equity. I’m not aware that Huawei has equity in Globe. They maybe a supplier of Globe but not equity where they can participate in the day to day affairs,” he said.

Lorenzana then asked senators why Congress approved the franchise of Mislatel.

“If there are questions about the ownership, then why did Congress approved it?” he said.

Drilon said he voted against the approval of the Mislatel franchise but he explained that 40% equity is allowed by the law.

“The issue that now confronts the country is the security issue not the legality of the 40% of China Telecom. The concern is andami namang mapaglagyan ng mga towers na ‘yan bakit doon pa sa loob ng kampo?” he said.

Lorenzana said the telecommunications companies wanted to build their towers inside military camps for security reason.

“So many towers were being blown up by the NPA (New People’s Army) before so Globe and Smart asked the AFP if they can co-locate in areas na secured. Not all towers of the two telcos are inside the camps,” he said.

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