Armed Forces always ready to secure national secrets, communications

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said it will do everything in its authority to ensure that national secrets and its communications remain secure.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is just as concerned when it comes to security, the inherent predisposition of the AFP (is) towards security, you grant us, and you trust us when we say that we are going to ensure that national secrets and the security of our communications will be guarded and protected,” said AFP spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, in an interview with ABS-CBN.

Arevalo’s remarks came after some sectors expressed concerns on the AFP’s co-location memorandum of agreement (MOA), which was signed last week, with Dito Telecommunity (formerly Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company or Mislatel).

Arevalo also pointed out that Dito Telecommunity personnel, when building and maintaining their facilities, will be accompanied by military personnel every time.

“They have not put anything yet by the way, and if they are going to that, before they can build up the facility and if the facilities are already there standing and they have to maintain it, they have to do that everytime, (they have) to be accompanied and escorted by military personnel,” he said.

Arevalo added that there will be no connection between the military communications facilities and the telecommunications firm.

“There will be no connection, except hosting or co-locationing areas where the AFP is guarding together with facilities of the AFP,” he said.

Earlier, AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., said Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana always has the prerogative to cancel or revoke any memorandum of agreement entered by the military with any entity or organization.

He also clarified that he did not bypass Lorenzana when he approved the MOA, adding that it is the procedure for him to sign it first before sending it to the DND chief and his staff for scrutiny.

“In our process, the MOA will have to be approved by SND (Secretary of National Defense), but before (it can go to) the Secretary of National Defense, I have to sign it first, the MOA can’t go into the (office of) SND (without my approval), it would be like that, I would have him proofread the documents I would sign,” he said in Filipino.

Madrigal added that the MOA with Dito Telecommunity passed scrunity through the military’s intelligence, legal and communications divisions. Dito Telecommunity is composed of Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Udenna Corp, and China Telecom.

It was conferred with the status of New Major Player in the telecommunications industry by the National Telecommunications Commission on November 19, 2018. The AFP and Dito signed the co-location MOA last September 11.

Also, the AFP chief bared that partnering with Mislatel is nothing new as similar MOAs have been entered into with Smart and Globe.

Based on the agreement, the AFP will determine specific locations with its rental value for use of Mislatel in the installation and management of its communications sites, without undermining the operations of affected AFP units.

The telecommunications firm is also required to “furnish all equipment, labor, and materials necessary to effect the co-location of its facilities and shoulders all expenses in connection with or incidental to the co-location” and payment of all taxes, permits, licenses, and other charges. PNA.GOV.PH