Senate probe into ‘Safe Philippines’ project that involves Chinese firms

In this Nov. 19, 2018 photo, Sen. Ralph Recto attends the bicameral conference committee on universal health care at the Senate.

MANILA, Jan 17, 2019, Philstar. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto called for an investigation into the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s “Safe Philippines” project, reported the Philippine Star.

The senator filed Resolution 990 directing the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry into the project that involves Chinese firms.

In November, the DILG signed a contract with state-owned China International Telecommunication Construction Corporation (CITCC) during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In the Senate resolution, Recto noted that Chinese companies and individuals have been involved in espionage and hacking activities.

Recto also expressed concern over Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, whose chief financial officer was arrested in Canada for allegedly helping the company avoid sanctions against Iran.

“Whereas, there is a mounting concern that China may be using Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd as a proxy in Chinese intelligence operations or as a conduit to access sensitive networks,” Recto said in the resolution.

Huawei has been awarded the contract as the primary equipment supplier of the Safe Philippines project, where they would install an initial 12,000 surveillance cameras in Metro Manila and Davao City.

Recto noted that Article 7 of China’s National Intelligance Law “mandates all Chinese organizations and citizens to cooperate with, collaborate in, and guard the secrecy of, the Chinese national intelligence work, with a promise that the Chinese State will protect the individuals and organizations that support, cooperate with and collaborate in such undertaking.”

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had claimed that the P20-billion project would reduce crime by 15 percent and improve response time by 20 percent.

The project seeks to use modern information and communications technology-driven systems but the Department of Information and Communications Technology admitted that it was not consulted on the matter.

“It is imperative that the Philippine Government review and evaluate government programs and projects and their impact on national security and public interest,” Recto said.

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo Party-list) earlier warned that the DILG’s deal with a Chinese firm might be of risk to national security.

“What I don’t agree with is that we are risking to undermine the same sense of security we wish to provide for our people by going on a partnership with a state who has a long and storied career of spying on other governments and worse, its own people,” Alejano said in a statement.

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