With Mislatel's China links, senators wary of foreign ownership reforms

MANILA, Philippines – China's involvement in Mislatel, the 3rd major telecommunications player, is a major concern among senators and is leading them to take a step back from relaxing foreign ownership restrictions.

Mislatel is composed of Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation and Beijing-led China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom).

During the 4th and final hearing of the Senate committee on public services regarding Mislatel's issues, Senator Ralph Recto pointed out that China may be able to acquire a controlling stake once Congress relaxes ownership limits under the Public Service Act.

According to Recto, Mislatel's ownership structure and the relaxing of ownership restrictions cannot be reviewed independently.

"You cannot take a look at this in isolation to many other things happening," he said.

Senator Grace Poe, public services committee chairperson, acknowledged Recto's concerns.

"Kaya nga nadedelay ang [amendments to the] Public Service Act. Dati malakas na ang naging suporta dito pero ngayon, may mga kasamahan ako sa Senado at hindi ko sila masisisi sa dami ng interes ng China sa ating bansa ngayon," Poe said.

(The amendments to the Public Service Act are being delayed. Before, many supported the measure, but I have colleagues now in the Senate who are wary and I can't blame them because China has a lot of interests in our country.)

Poe noted that China has interests not only in the Philippine telecommunications industry, but in surveillance as well. 

The Department of the Interior and Local Government has partnered with a China Telecom affiliate and Huawei for the Safe Philippines Project, a 12,000-camera surveillance system for the supposed "efficient management of public order, security, and safety" in the country.

The project's pilot areas are Metro Manila and President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown Davao City. (READ: China's surveillance system coming to the Philippines?)

Critics argued that China's presence in the telecommunications space and surveillance may grant it access to sensitive personal information of Filipinos. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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