Senate probe on AFP-Dito Telco deal sought

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2019   •   473

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.

Two missing, three injured in oil refinery fire in China

UNTV News   •   July 13, 2020

A massive oil refinery fire in Longyan City of east China’s Fujian Province has left two missing and three others injured with one in severe condition, according to the local government’s report released at 21:30 on Sunday.

All injured victims were immediately taken to hospital.

According to the report, the cause of the accident is the hot weather which led to fire while a worker was operating a glycerinum storage tank at the Longyan Zhuoyue New Energy company, located in Tieshan Town of the city’s Xinluo District.

The fire lit up an area of 3,900 square meters as of 21:30.

All nearby residents have been evacuated to safety, while hundreds of firefighters brought in from across the province are continuing to fight the flames.

A local emergency response headquarters has been set up, with a total of 12 fire stations, 54 fire trucks and 202 firefighters dispatched to the rescue.

In addition, armed police, public security, forest fire control, militia reserve, medical workers, sanitation workers, emergency management personnel and other rescue forces also rushed to the scene, quickly organized the evacuation of the factory workers and the surrounding people, and implemented temporary traffic control.

According to the report, the main substances produced during the refinery fire included PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, but no poisonous materials and cumulative pollutants.

By the time of the report, rescue is still underway. (Reuters)

China’s embassy in Kazakhstan warns citizens of pneumonia deadlier than COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   July 10, 2020

China’s embassy in Kazakhstan has warned its citizens on Thursday (July 9) to take precautions against an outbreak of pneumonia in the country that it says is more lethal than COVID-19.

It said in a statement on its official website late on Thursday that there had been a “significant increase” in cases in the cities of Atyrau, Aktobe and Shymkent since mid-June.

On Friday (July 10), however, Kazakhstan’s healthcare ministry branded Chinese media reports based on the embassy statement as “fake news”.

The ministry said its tallies of bacterial, fungal and viral pneumonia infections, which also included cases of unclear causes, were in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to comment on the issue directly during a Friday (July 10) briefing in Beijing, instead referring media to “the relevant authorities in Kazakhstan”.

“China also hopes to obtain information on this,” Zhao said.

Kazakhstan, which imposed a second lockdown this week to rein in the coronavirus pandemic, has a tally of almost 55,000 COVID-19 infections, including 264 deaths. The number of new cases rose on Thursday to a daily record of 1,962.

On Tuesday (July 7), state news agency Kazinform said the number of pneumonia cases “increased 2.2 times in June as compared to the same period of 2019”.

In its statement, the Chinese embassy had said pneumonia in Kazakhstan killed 1,772 people in the year’s first half, with 628 deaths in June, including Chinese citizens.

It is unclear whether the said pneumonia it referred to was caused by a virus related to coronavirus or a different strain. (Reuters)

(Production: Shubing Wang, Fang Nanlin)

China says willing to join arms treaty if U.S. reduces its nuclear arsenal

UNTV News   •   July 8, 2020

If the United States were willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level, China would “be happy to” participate in trilateral arms control negotiation with the U.S and Russia, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday (July 8).

The U.S. has repeatedly called for China to join in trilateral negotiations to extend a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia that is due to expire in February next year.

Fu Cong, head of arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, reiterated to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that China has no interest in joining the trilateral negotiation. (Reuters)

(Production: Martin Pollard, Wang Shubing)

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