Telco startup Dito Telecommunity Corp. is tapping United States cybersecurity firm Fortinet as a crucial technology partner in a bid to ease spying worries due to a Chinese state firm’s involvement in the telco.
Dito, backed by Davao-based businessman Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp. and state-run China Telecom, said in a statement that Fortinet was chosen as its “primary cybersecurity provider.”
The announcement followed a recent deal between Dito and the Philippine government for the building of cell towers inside military camps just as incumbents Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc. had done.
This triggered fresh espionage worries amid the Duterte administration’s warm embrace of Beijing despite Chinese encroachment in the West Philippine Sea.
Fortinet claims its products are used by major enterprises, service providers and government organizations around the world, including the Philippines.
“Dito Telecommunity will leverage Fortinet’s comprehensive network security platform, serving as its primary cybersecurity provider,” Dito said.
The move could relax worries from quarters concerned about the presence of a Chinese-run telco inside military camps.
For one, critics have pointed to China’s intelligence and espionage laws mandating their companies to spy for the government when ordered.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he was against allowing Dito to build towers inside military facilities.
“I’m not in favor of them putting up cell sites in military camps. There are plots of land that are vacant out there. That’s why I’m not in favor of this set up,” he said in a radio interview.
Dito downplayed spying risks, saying stringent safeguards are in place.
“Dito Telecommunity guaranteed that its devices, equipment and structures shall not be used to obtain classified information from the Armed Forces,” Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said last week.
“Dito Telecommunity is first and foremost a Filipino-owned and -managed company and will always look after the interests of the Filipino people,” he said.
Dito said it was keeping its commitment to launching commercial services to subscribers by March 2021 despite delays in the rollout of cell sites0.
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