At the Senate Public Services Committee hearing, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. sought to tap “lawful intercepts” to be done by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to deter hackers from securing sensitive data that could risk national security.

“There’s really some kind of a cyberwar that’s ongoing. We do not know all the players, but it should be incumbent upon us to adopt cybersecurity measures. We need to fund the DICT so that they could have an operations center for lawful intercepts,” said Esperon.

The official acknowledged the rising cases of cyber threats, citing that there are other countries apart from China that sponsors hacking activities.

“We know that there will always be some third parties that would be interested in our telecoms systems, and it is incumbent upon us to also be on guard against this. Many states or third parties or their proxies, even terrorists, have the capability to do that,” he continued.

“That is why it is really very important that cybersecurity should now be a practice, a policy, and something we should all be doing in all government agencies, as well as for private corporations,” he added.

For her part, Committee Chair Senator Grace Poe pointed out that all China-based companies like China Telecom (ChinaTel), which has a 40% stake in the country’s third telco DITO Telecommunity, are mandated by the Chinese law to provide information and intelligence to Beijing.

“This is the problem. We’re talking about the franchise of DITO Telecommunity. One of the issues being brought forth – and I think, fairly – is how do we protect ourselves knowing that a certain percentage of ownership is owned by a foreign national?” Poe asked.

“How can the government assure us that they’ve given a fair assessment of the safety to our sovereignty if we don’t even have a cybersecurity group that does the assessment?” the senator added.

“Listening to Secretary Esperon – they’re drafting this and that – but when it comes to the actual mechanism in place, should we have a threat, there’s really no plan. So papaano natin masasabi na safe tayo?” she stressed.

DITO’s franchise is set to expire in 2023, or just two years after its official market rollout in March.

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