Philippines Continues Chinese 5G Telecom Partnerships Despite US Warnings

China Philippine Relations
A Huawei employee showcases their facial recognition technology at their booth at Interpol World in Singapore (Photo: Reuters / Edgar Su)

Ignoring the call for a boycott by its western allies, the Philippines has now moved ahead with the opening of its telecommunications sector to the Chinese tech giant Huawei.

The country's largest mobile network carriers have already begun rollout out their respective 5G services, utilizing equipment acquired from Huawei and other Chinese firms.  

The decision to open its doors to Huawei could accelerate the 5G infrastructure of one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia. However, it could also jeopardize the county's strategic ties with its western allies, particularly the United States.

Since its trade dispute with China has trickled into the tech sector, the United States has been calling for its allies to boycott Huawei. US officials, including US President Donald Trump, have accused Huawei of being nothing more than a tool used by the Chinese government to spy on other countries. Huawei has since repeatedly denied all accusations and stressed that its equipment posed no such security threats to users.

The US and other countries that have sided with it still claim that by allowing China to build its 5G infrastructure, the Philippines and its security will essentially become compromised.

Critics claim that through the use of Chinese equipment, China may be able to monitor, hack, manipulate, and sabotage data transmitted to and from different networks.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has formed close ties with China and its President Xi Jinping. This has resulted in the opening of the nation's telecom sector to Huawei and other Chinese firms. State-run telecommunications firm China Telecommunications Group has reported joined a consortium of companies to aid the Philippines in its rollout of next-generation mobile networks using equipment built by Chinese engineers.

The country's newest telecommunications carrier, Dito Telecommunity, is reportedly also planning to roll out new services using components supplied by China Telecom.

The company is expected to spend up to $5 billion over the next few years to expand its services throughout the country. China Telecom owns a 40 percent stake in Udenna Corporation, which owns Dito Telecommunity.

In response to accusations of espionage, China Telecom reiterated that it is "deeply committed" in the security of its customers and that it does impose strict compliance with any country's data protection regulations.

Two of the Philippines largest telecom companies, Smart Communications, and Globe Telecom, have also started rolling out services using Huawei's technologies. Both companies have made announcements to ease the public's concerns regarding their security.

Globe CEO Earnest Lawrence Cu stated earlier in the year that all of the equipment they have installed have received a "clean bill of health" from third-party security consultants. Smart also stated much of the same sentiment regarding the equipments it has rolled out. 

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