AFP, Mislatel sign deal to build facilities in military camps

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officially allowed the Mislatel consortium to build facilities in military camps and installations.

Mislatel is poised to become the country's 3rd major telecommunications player, under the name Dito Telecommunity. It is a consortium led by Davao City-based businessman Dennis Uy, and includes Udenna Corporation, Chelsea Logistics, and China Telecom, which is controlled by the Chinese government.

Major General Adrian Sanchez Jr, AFP deputy chief of staff for communications, electronics, and information systems (CEIS), and Adel Tamano, Mislatel chief administrative officer, signed a memorandum of agreement at the AFP General Headquarters in Quezon City on Wednesday, September 11.

Under the agreement, the AFP will identify specific locations where Mislatel can install and manage communication equipment "without undermining the operations of affected AFP units," the military said in a media release.

The AFP will also determine the rental value of facilities to be used by Mislatel, which will shoulder all construction costs and tax payments.

"Payment will be made by providing CEIS equipment, upgrade, services, and training to the AFP equivalent to the monetary value of the lease subject to inflation," the military said.

Meanwhile, Mislatel "guarantees that the devices, equipment, and/or structures installed at the site provided by the AFP shall not be used to obtain classified information as a measure to prevent electronic espionage."

"With this partnership with the AFP, we are nearer our goal of building a wide and robust network," Uy said in a statement.

Noting that the AFP has similar arrangements with telcos Globe and Smart, AFP Chief of Staff Benjamin Madrigal Jr said the deal with Mislatel gives the new telco a "fair chance" to compete.

"Our [agreements] with other telcos significantly improved the information and communications technology infrastructure of the AFP and we are optimistic that this partnership will also bring great benefits to the Armed Forces," Madrigal added.

Mislatel's equipment will mostly "co-locate" with those of Globe and Smart on already existing "long lines," towers, and other infrastructure in strategic locations, the military chief said.

Hurdles to Mislatel's franchise to operate were cleared by the Senate on February 6. As Dito Telecommunity, the consortium will begin rolling out services in 2020.

Concerns were raised early on that the telco's infrastructure may be used by the Chinese government for espionage.

"Lahat naman ng bagay na ito, ano, well lahat ay, even Globe or Smart...mayroon pa rin threat...so lahat 'yan, alam natin na vulnerable," Madrigal said on Wednesday.

(All of these things, well all of them are, even Globe or Smart...there is a threat...so all of them, we know they are vulnerable.)

"We exercise security [in] all aspects.... Part of our role is being security conscious," he further said, adding that the AFP's intelligence units have programs and activities that ensure the security of military communications.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has yet to sign off on the agreement. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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