Senate probe on AFP-Dito Telco deal sought

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2019   •   214

MANILA, Philippines – Some senators are seeking to probe a deal signed between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and China-linked Dito Telecommunity Corp. (formerly Mislatel Consortium) amid concerns that the agreement could pose a threat to national security.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday said she has filed Senate Resolution No. 137 after Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated that he was not aware of the said agreement, which allows Dito Telecommunity, the country’s third major telecommunications player, to rent spaces where they can set up equipment and other facilities inside military bases across the country.

Dito is a company comprised of Udenna Corporation, led by businessman Dennis Uy, and China Telecom.

“Is there now a ‘sign first, worry about security later’ policy under this administration?” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“Ito na ang pangalawang beses na hindi nakonsulta ang defense secretary tungkol sa mga diumanong Chinese deals na pinapasok ng ating pamahalaan na may seryosong implikasyon sa ating pambansang seguridad,” she added.

Hontiveros further said that entering into a deal with a Chinese-linked firm is “irresponsible” amid continuing maritime disputes between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.

“Sa isang panahon na patuloy ang panghihimasok ng Tsina sa West Philippine Sea, napaka-iresponsable na pumasok tayo sa mga kasunduan sa kanila na hindi sinusuri ang epekto nito sa ating pambansang seguridad at kaligtasan,” Hontiveros added.

(In this time when China continues to infiltrate the West Philippine Sea, it is irresponsible for us to enter a deal with them without scrutinizing its effects on our national security and safety.)

The senator cited Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law which states that Chinese organizations and citizens are obligated to support “state-intelligence gathering efforts.”

Hontiveros said that under China’s law, Chinese corporations cannot refuse to assist such acts of espionage, since its Counter-Espionage Law requires that “when the state security organ investigates and understands the situation of espionage and collects relevant evidence, the relevant organizations and individuals shall provide it truthfully and may not refuse.”

“There is an urgent need to determine whether or not the presence of Chinese facilities in military bases and installations undermines national security and whether or not the lease agreements entered into for this purpose comply with applicable law,” she said.

The lawmaker added the agreement may be violating the Public Land Act which states that “military reservations cannot be subject to lease, occupation, entry, sale, or other disposition, until declared alienable by provisions of the Act or by proclamation by the President,” and the AFP Modernization Act, which states that any “sale, lease or joint development of military reservations must be authorized by Congress.”

Senator Francis Pangilinan agreed with Hontiveros’ sentiments.

In a statement, Pangilinan pointed out that two high-ranking government officials, Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, have earlier raised concerns on issues involving China, including the proximity of Chinese-dominated offshore gaming operators’ hubs to military camps and the influx of thousands of its nationals in the country.

“Hindi biro itong China telco involvement dito sa ating military camps,” Pangilinan said.

(This Chinese telco’s involvement in our military camps is no joke.)

“Ang concern: gagamitin nung Chinese government yung information na nakukuha [at] dumadaan doon sa kanilang mga sistema para itulak ang interes ng China,” he added.

(The concern is the Chinese government will use the information that passes through their system to advance China’s interests.)

The senator stressed the security risk is not a mere speculation, citing the move of other countries such as Australia, the United States, Japan and New Zealand to ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei due to security concerns.

READ: Pangilinan questions deal allowing Chinese-linked Dito Telco to build facilities in military camps

Pangilinan said he will raise these concerns during the hearings on the budget proposal of the AFP and the DND.

“We will ask clarificatory questions regarding this deal. And we will look into this because popondohan natin ang AFP, DND,” he said.

The military earlier allayed these concerns while Malacañang said the country can simply leave the deal if this poses any threat to national security.

China’s Singles Day sales surpass $1 billion in 1st minute

Robie de Guzman   •   November 11, 2019

Workers sort packages at the Yuqiao mail processing center on Singles’ Day, in Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China, 11 November 2019. Singles’ Day is the largest online shopping festival in the world and Chinese consumers are expected to spend billions on bargains during the one-day e-commerce shopping spree. EPA-EFE/MENG DELONG CHINA OUT

SHANGHAI, China — China’s golden day for e-commerce, Singles Day, began at midnight (16.00 GMT Sunday) with sales surpassing $1 billion in just one minute through the platforms of online retail giant Alibaba Group.

At 12 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, millions of Chinese began shopping and Alibaba began counting orders with the aim of breaking internet sales records for a single day.

In the first five minutes alone, products worth $4.3 billion were sold on platforms such as Taobao or T-Mall in this public shopping festival similar to Black Friday in the United States.

One hour after midnight, Alibaba Group said sales had reached over $12 billion.

The goal is to beat last year’s record of $30.8 billion in sales, a figure expected to be achieved through an increasing number of Chinese internet users and online shoppers.

According to Alibaba Group’s latest quarterly results published at the beginning of November, annual active consumers in China reached 693 million, 15.3 percent more than a year earlier.

Singles Day emerged in 2009 with the participation of only 27 stores and a collection of just 52 million yuan ($7.4 million).

Sales each year now reach 2.5 times higher than the total of Black Friday and Cyber Monday – large sales days in the US — combined.

Although most purchases are made in China, there are also international transactions since the company is present in other countries through its AliExpress platform.

And although other online sales platforms have joined the day, as well as thousands of physical stores, Alibaba is the main promoter.

It celebrates in style, such as with a televised gala in which artists and celebrities encourage people to buy.

Sunday’s show, which ended with a countdown to mark the beginning of shopping, was held in the city of Shanghai and featured performances by artists such as the US pop star Taylor Swift. EFE-EPA

BI arrests man wanted for investment scam in China

Robie de Guzman   •   November 4, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – A Chinese national wanted for his alleged involvement in economic crimes in China has been arrested by the operatives of the Bureau of Immigration, the agency said Monday.

Chen long, alias Chen Chenglong was arrested last Oct. 30 in a building in Makati City, the bureau said in a statement.

Chen, 32, and his cohort were accused of setting up an unregistered investment company in Shandong province and “reportedly duped their victims more than 60 million RMB or more than P400 million.”

The BI said it launched an operation and case build-up after receiving information from Chinese authorities about Chen’s crimes.

“Upon receipt of the information, we immediately conducted a case build-up and determined his location to effect his arrest,” Bobby Raquepo, head of the BI’s Fugitive Search Unit said.

The bureau added that Chen’s passport has been canceled by the Chinese government, making him an undocumented alien.

Chen has been transferred to the BI Detention Center in Bicutan, Taguig pending the implementation of his deportation.

China donates P22 million for quake victims in Mindanao

Robie de Guzman   •   November 1, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese government on Friday announced that it is donating 3 million RMB or around P22 million to the Philippine government to help victims of strong earthquakes in Mindanao this month.

In a statement, China, through its Embassy in Manila, expressed its deepest sympathies to families affected by the powerful tremors that rattled parts of Mindanao in the past few weeks.

China said its aid also aims to support the disaster relief efforts by the Philippine government in Mindanao and help local residents return to normal life.

“China believes that, under the strong leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the government of the Philippines, the Philippine people will overcome the disaster and rebuild their homeland as soon as possible,” the Embassy said.

Earlier, Japan and the United States, through its Embassies in Manila, have sent their sympathies and condolences to victims of the latest disaster in Mindanao.

This month, three powerful earthquakes struck Tulunan, Cotabato; a magnitude 6.1 on Oct. 16, followed by a magnitude 6.6 on Oct. 29 and a magnitude 6.5 quake on Oct. 31.

The quakes have killed 17 individuals, and injured more than 300 others, according to the latest report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The temblors affected large parts of Mindanao, weakened structures and caused some buildings to collapse in the latest tremor.

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