Dito hires ex-soldiers to ease China worries
MANILA, Philippines — Telco start-up Dito Telecommunity has gone on a hiring spree of former military personnel in the hopes of easing and even erasing spying concerns due to its Chinese partner amid a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
During a media briefing on Thursday, Dito chief technology officer Rodolfo Santiago disclosed that at least eight other former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers were working for the company and they were looking to hire more. Santiago, one of Dito’s earliest employees and a retired major general himself, said that the company had tapped a former colonel, Roleen del Prado, to head cybersecurity.
“I know the reputation and expertise of the guy,” Santiago said, adding that he had personally worked with Del Prado, who was involved in conceptualizing and designing Dito’s cybersecurity system.
This was launched recently along with the company’s network operations center.
Espionage worries from China continue to hang over Dito, which is backed by the group of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy and China Telecom Corp. Ltd., a Chinese company listed both in the Hong Kong and New York stock exchanges. It also has subsidiaries in the United States and Europe.
During Dito’s franchise hearings this week, senators pointed to Chinese laws that mandated their companies to spy for the government when ordered.
Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said that AFP officers had sworn to protect the country.
He disclosed that seven former military personnel were working in Dito’s division handling physical security.
“Their job description was to protect the territorial integrity of this country,” Tamano said. “That is something that is in their DNA. That is why we’re not hesitant to get people from the [AFP].”
Apart from personnel, Dito previously announced it had tapped US cybersecurity firm Fortinet as its primary cybersecurity provider.
The establishment of a new telco is a major project of the Duterte administration to improve the quality of telecommunications in the country.
According to Santiago, Dito plans to complete its first technical audit by Jan. 7 next year and launch commercial services to paying subscribers in March. This comes as PLDT and Globe aggressively roll out upgrades and new telco infrastructure.
Santiago said he expected Dito to face early challenges winning customers given its relatively limited coverage at the start of commercial operations. “The better service will balance out our shortcomings in terms of coverage and therefore will still be attractive to the Filipino public,” he added.
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