Press Release
March 18, 2021

Hontiveros renews call for cyberdefense framework amid Dito franchise Senate approval

"The Department of Defense should make cybersecurity a national priority. A national cyberdefense framework should be in place as soon as possible. There are sharks in the water with us and we're still just learning to swim. There are estimates saying we are 15 to 25 years behind other countries."

Senator Risa Hontiveros called on the DND to establish a 'clear, consistent, and tough' cyberdefense framework, after China-owned Dito Telecommunity's franchise was sponsored in the Senate.

"We welcome competition in the telecommunications sector. Pero huwag naman tayo mag-bulagbulagan sa katotohanan. Ang Dito ay 40% owned at malamang kontrolado ng People's Republic of China, kaya hindi ito dapat basta-bastang maka-operate sa bansa nang wala tayong maayos na panangga sa posibleng cyber intrusions," Hontiveros said.

"From one perspective, it is the Philippine arm of a foreign government whose territorial interests are adverse to our own and whose political maneuverings within our country threaten to draw us further into a deepening regional conflict. Huwag naman natin kalimutan na pinag-aawayan pa rin natin ang West Philippine Sea. Our armed forces must be ready not only over land, sea, and air, but also in the cyber- and information warfare spaces as well," the senator added.

During the period of interpellations for the third telco's franchise, Hontiveros stressed the national security implications of having ChinaTel, a company 100% owned by the government of China, as a part-owner of Dito, citing the US Federal Communications Commission's recent revocation of China Telecom's authorizations to operate in the United States due to these same concerns.

According to Section 301 of the United States Trade Report, the Chinese government has a "military-civil fusion" policy of "integrating platforms for information sharing between, among others, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese enterprises in order to provide competitive intelligence to Chinese state-owned enterprises through the use of cyber intrusions."

"Cyberintrusions are really seen and therefore used for both geopolitical and trade purposes. This will constitute a juggernaut in our country, especially that we do not even seem to have a cyberdefense policy. This debate on Dito's franchise makes it clear that there are larger problems that urgently need to be addressed," the senator said.

"Dapat umpisahan na ngayon ng DND ang cyberdefense framework ng bansa. Dapat matuto na tayong lumangoy man lang. Kung hindi, ay sobrang kulelat nanaman tayo. It's time to reassess our national security priorities and defend ourselves against current and future threats. Let not our security forces be limited to fighting the enemy they know - the much-diminished internal threats - but stretch to prepare for the obvious external threats that pose the greatest danger to our country's long-term interests," Hontiveros concluded.

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