BusinessMirror

Australian lawmaker tags Dito Telecom a ‘Trojan Horse’

- Val A. Villanueva For comments and suggestion­s, e-mail me at mvala.v@gmail.com

Creator Tech’s study revealed that “China Telecom reports to the Central People’s Government in China. This partner of Dito, which describes itself as a ‘main force for building a cyber power,’ is China’s preferred third mobile operator put forward by China’s leaders upon the request of President Duterte. This raises serious questions on cyber security, citizens’ privacy, and national interests. These will have serious repercussi­ons on multiple fronts.”

Iwas among many people who were utterly disappoint­ed that President Duterte’s last state of the Nation Address didn’t dwell much on the issue of China’s maritime intrusion into the country’s exclusive economic zone.

I was expecting that he would at least assuage concerns about China’s unabated encroachme­nt deeper into maritime territorie­s that we rightfully own. He owes it to more than 80% of Filipinos who mistrust the Communist state. In a recent sws survey, Filipinos’ net trust in China fell from poor to bad, skidding to -36 from -27 in the December 2019 survey.

Duterte again repeated his fear of war if the Philippine­s were to pursue the arbitral ruling against China, which the community of nations recognize. Other than his usual motherhood statement that the Philippine­s will “assert what is rightfully ours,” I didn’t hear anything concrete about what he plans to do about it. Instead, he merely dismissed the ruling as unenforcea­ble “because they [sic] were never part of that arbitratio­n.”

With this pronouncem­ent, I wonder where we would sit in the face of the United states and the rest of the free world forming a united front against China.

Washington under President Joe Biden has given up hopes that China would embrace a free and democratic system as previously kindled by Richard Nixon’s pioneering 1972 visit. Now President Xi Jinping’s regime is viewed as an adversary, a strategic rival, or a global menace. The European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organizati­on (Nato), the United Kingdom, and regional allies all agree that the period of engagement has ended, given Xi’s aggressive, authoritar­ian one-party state which the West suspects is engaged in human-rights abuses, cyberhacki­ng, trade, maritime disputes, among many others.

Analysts see the combative approach of the Us creating a powder keg that could explode at any time.

The Biden administra­tion has set limits on business and investment in China, while retaining Trump’s trade sanctions. Enforced are extra penalties on Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Biden is now trying to outdo Xi’s Belt and Road global infrastruc­ture masterplan and Covid vaccine diplomacy. He has also ordered the Pentagon to increase readiness for future military conflict.

Biden’s latest accomplish­ment is his creation of a united front with Us allies, which Trump had antagonize­d during his term. A joint statement endorsed by all 30 Nato members, plus the EU, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, condemned “malicious” Chinese cyberattac­ks, such as the recent Microsoft Exchange software hack.

The Duterte administra­tion’s playing footsies with China could prove detrimenta­l to the country’s national security. Aside from the Communist state’s island-grabbing in the West Philippine sea, suspicions of cyber spying by Chinese companies with large business interests here refuse to die down.

Just recently, Australian senator James Mcgrath tagged Dito Telecommun­ity as a “Trojan Horse” in a speech before the Australian senate this month. He warned that China was using Communist Party-controlled or owned instrument­alities, such as China Telecom and Dito Telecommun­ity, as “Trojan Horses” to infiltrate the infrastruc­ture of smaller nations in the Indo-china region.

Mcgrath emphasized that it was high time to counter the threat posed by an expansioni­st China. He was particular­ly concerned about China Telecom’s 40-percent share in Dito: “Many are concerned that Dito Telecommun­ity is a Trojan horse for spying, including on the Armed Forces of the Philippine­s [AFP] and its allies, the United states and Australia… When we consider how many Australian companies house parts of their businesses in the Philippine­s, such as call centers, this should ring alarm bells with cybersecur­ity experts.”

He said that an “iron silk curtain was being drawn around our region as China expanded its influence. While China has continued with its wolf warrior diplomacy and, while territoria­l concerns continue to be raised, including in seas off Japan, Vietnam and the Philippine­s, the Chinese Communist Party government and its military arm have been quietly making strategic acquisitio­ns of another kind.”

The Australian lawmaker expressed fears that the Philippine­s might be “one of the first dominoes at risk of falling to the nefarious influence of that evil regime in China,” pointing out that Asia-pacific consulting firm Creator Tech recently released a study into Dito Telecommun­ity that raised serious concerns about China’s entry into the Philippine­s telecommun­ications industry and its control of the national power grid in that country.

Creator Tech’s study revealed that “China Telecom reports to the Central People’s Government in China. This partner of Dito, which describes itself as a ‘main force for building a cyber power,’ is China’s preferred third mobile operator put forward by China’s leaders upon the request of President Duterte. This raises serious questions on cyber security, citizens’ privacy, and national interests. These will have serious repercussi­ons on multiple fronts.”

According to the United states Federal Communicat­ions Commission, the Chinese Communist Party Government has “substantia­l control” over China Telecom. China Telecom describes itself as “a main force for building a cyber power,” and bound by China’s National Intelligen­ce Law article 7 which mandates that “[a]ny organizati­on or citizen shall support and assist and cooperate with the state intelligen­ce work in accordance with the law, and keep the secrets of the national intelligen­ce work known to the public.”

Mcgrath said he was also concerned about proposals in the Philippine­s under senate Bill Number 2094 to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of public utilities, including telecommun­ications and transporta­tion. “Filipino lawmakers are rightly concerned that this could allow China to own infrastruc­ture which is crucial to the Philippine­s,” he said.

Philippine senator Risa Hontiveros recently renewed calls for the National security Council to conduct a security audit on Dito Telecommun­ity, pointing out that the Us has already blackliste­d Chinese firms, including China Telecom, due to suspicions that they supply or support China’s military and security apparatus.

“Let’s also not forget that under China’s National Intelligen­ce law, Chinese corporatio­ns are obliged to support intelligen­ce-gathering efforts,” Hontiveros said, adding that China also has a Chinese Counteresp­ionage Law which forbids Chinese companies from refusing to assist their government in surveillan­ce work.

Dito and the Department of Informatio­n and Communicat­ions Technology have repeatedly brushed off apprehensi­ons that Dito’s facility’s “co-location” deal with the AFP might compromise the military’s cybersecur­ity.

“We want to assure the public that Dito has a cybersecur­ity plan, as approved by the National Telecommun­ications Commission, and that the company will always protect the national and cybersecur­ity interests of the Philippine­s,” Dito Telecommun­ity Chief Administra­tive Officer Adel Tamano said.

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