SENATE President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto raised an alarm Thursday over the possibility of an “electronic Trojan horse” penetrating military camps if a foreign telecommunication firm is allowed to operate inside restricted facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
In a statement, Recto reminded authorities that “military camps should be no-go zones for a possible electronic Trojan horse,” referring to Dito Telecommunity, a consortium led by Davao businessman Dennis Uy, which has an investment from the state-owned China Telecommunications Corp.
He pointed out the Philippines has a land area of 30 million hectares, with military installations occupying a fraction of it, estimating it may not even be 1/10th of 1 percent of the total.
The senator suggested that Dito Telecommunity “can build their sites anywhere in this wide expanse of land—and government should help them —except in the 25 Navy bases and stations, 53 Army bases, and 17 air bases and stations, which should be declared as no-go zones for this company.”
Noting that the AFP is not a big landlord whose holdings are crucial in a telco’s operations, Recto wondered: “Why insist on building on military real estate?”
Should health and environmental rules allow it, Dito should instead explore building towers in the almost 50,000 public school and state university campuses—and pay rent in cash and in kind, “the latter in free broadband for the students,” Recto said.
The senator recalled that for the past 50 years, the AFP has enjoyed a most-favored agency status, as affirmed in the annual national budget, noting this shows “it does not need a land lease sideline business to augment its budget…. More so if the tenant is 40 percent owned by a state-owned foreign company whose principal allegiance, under the laws of that country, is to its government.”
He, however, clarified that “I am not yet ready to fully subscribe to suspicions that having them inside these national security compounds is like letting in an electronic Trojan horse. But it is better to be safe than sorry.”