Philippines: China Telecom could be used for espionage, say lawmakers

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After the pronouncement of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's interest to invite a foreign internet provider to enter the country, opposition members of the Congress on Wednesday have expressed concern that the third-party player could be a "Trojan horse" that will be used to give China access to state secrets.

China Telecom Corp Ltd is under negotiation to enter the Philippines in the first quarter and hopes to break the duopoly of Globe Telecom Inc and PLDT Inc. The China state-run internet provider was chosen by Beijing to invest in the country, according to Philippine officials, but it has to have a local partner in order to operate legally.

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For some lawmakers, the idea of letting a Chinese internet provider seems a bad idea considering the country's technological capabilities.

"While we agree that telecommunications and connectivity are serious problems in our country, it behooves us to scrutinize the China deal," states the statement of the House minority bloc. "Is China Telecom a Trojan horse?"

The lawmakers are now seeking a congressional inquiry and warned the government against rushing into any deal.

"Giving China access to the country's communications infrastructure is a serious threat to national security."

On the other hand, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Thursday said that the Philippines' invitation of the Chinese telecom firms to operate in the country exhibited the trust that exists between the two states.

In the meantime, PLDT and Smart Communications previously confirmed its partnership with Huawei to deliver a faster internet service in the country. Part of the US$28.5m deal in the 15-month agreement is to help in improving Smart's online charging platforms and electronic loading for subscribers.

This article was first published on January 18, 2018