Opposition members of the House of Representatives of the Philippines expressed concern China Telecom could be something of a Trojan horse and pose a threat to national security.
The operator was invited to partner with a local company to set up a third mobile player to compete again with the duopoly held by PLDT and Globe Telecom. However, the House minority bloc said in a statement: “While we agree that telecommunications and connectivity are serious problems in our country, it behooves us to scrutinise the China deal,” Reuters reported. The politicians are seeking a congressional inquiry.
Danilo Suarez, minority House leader, first raised questions about China Telecom in an opinion piece published by Manila Standard last week, stating: “Giving China access to the Philippine communications infrastructure is a serious threat to national security.” He noted the US wants to ban Huawei and ZTE from bidding on government contracts.
The Philippines government identified China Telecom in December 2017 as the company to become the third operator in the country, with plans to invest in its often-criticised slow internet service. The move came a matter of weeks after President Rodrigo Duterte invited China to invest in the country’s telecoms sector.
State-run National Transmission Corp (TransCo) and Philippine Telegraph & Telephone (PT&T) have expressed interested in partnering with China Telecom to establish a new operator.
In October 2016 Duterte warned the county’s two dominant mobile operators he would open the market to Chinese competition if they failed to improve their poor service. Duterte said at the time he shared the frustration of the country’s mobile users, who have endured slow internet speeds and generally poor service.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) last week published guidelines for the entry of a third telecoms operator. A key requirement is the company can’t be a subsidiary, affiliate, or have any corporate or financial interest with incumbent operators PLDT and Globe as of 31 December 2017.
A DICT representative said in addition to China Telecom, Japan-based KDDI, South Korea-based LG Uplus and an unnamed Taiwan company expressed interest in investing in the country, where they would need to partner with a local company.