Philippines boosts cybersecurity ahead of China Telecom entry

FILE PHOTO: The company logo of China Telecom is displayed at a news conference on the company's annual results in Hong Kong, China March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines is beefing up cybersecurity measures prior to the expected entry of Chinese firms in its telecoms industry, the president’s spokesman said on Thursday, amid concerns that national security could be at risk.

Several senators have spoken out about allowing Chinese state-run firms to build and manage crucial internet and telecoms system, given the two nations’ history of bitter mistrust and Beijing’s reputation for technological expertise.

“They should not worry because the government is already worried,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a regular news briefing.

Regulators had been ordered to take all measures to protect the country’s cybersecurity with the likely entry of China Telecom Corp Ltd, Roque added.

The Philippines and China now enjoy warm relations under President Rodrigo Duterte, who, unlike his predecessors, has set aside a territorial spat over sovereignty in the South China Sea to tap China for loans, investments, expertise and trade.

Duterte last month offered Beijing a chance to challenge the dominant carriers PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom Inc. He wants a third telecoms player to start operations in the first quarter next year, to break a duopoly and boost competition and service quality.

Beijing has chosen China Telecom, which needs to partner with a Philippine company because of a 40-percent cap on foreign ownership of domestic telecoms firms.

PLDT and Globe declined to comment on Thursday. PLDT announced it had allotted a record sum of at least 50 billion pesos ($997 million) for capital expenses next year as it prepares to take on a competitor.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez