Opposition senatorial candidate Lorenzo ‘Erin’ Tañada urged the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to review the P20 Billion Peso “Safe Philippines” surveillance program, citing numerous red flags including fiscal, privacy, and national security concerns.

“While I welcome any initiative intended to make the country safer, I think this project should undergo greater public scrutiny. CCTV cameras are nothing new, but this is surveillance on a massive scale; an initial 12,000 surveillance camera will be installed by Huawei in Metro Manila and Davao. The same Huawei that is mandated by Chinese law to collaborate with the Chinese government in intelligence gathering. The same Huawei that has been banned by the United States from supplying equipment for critical telecommunications infrastructure,” Tañada said.

The former Deputy Speaker warned that even without the national security issues embedded in the surveillance network of Safe Philippines, the Chinese loan funding the project might be onerous and highly disadvantageous to the Philippines.

“I think the Duterte administration should practice the Executive Order on Freedom of Information that he put into effect in 2016, by releasing all agreements related to the China-funded infrastructure projects signed last year. This will go a long way towards easing the fears of the public that the Philippines might be falling into a ‘debt trap.’ If the projects are fair and above board, then the Palace shouldn’t have a problem with releasing the documents.”

Tañada also said that the loan agreement for the Safe Philippines project might contain the same objectionable provisions found in the agreement for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, the contents of which were leaked to the media last month. “Baka ‘yung objectionable provisions sa Chico River project nandito din. ‘Yung mataas na interest rate; ‘yung requirement na gumamit ng Chinese contractors at workers; at lalo na ‘yung provision na nagsasabing pwedeng angkinin ng China ang patrimonial property ng Pilipinas kung hindi tayo makapagbayad,” he added.

The surveillance program, worth 20 billion pesos, has a bigger budget than the Chico River Project, which is worth 3.6 billion pesos.

On this latest development, Tañada has this to say: “Ipinamigay na niya ang ating teritoryo sa West Philippine Sea. Ipinamigay na rin niya ang kabuhayan na pwedeng mapakinabangan ng ating kababayan dito. Pati ba naman ang mga importanteng sekreto at impormasyon tungkol sa ating ekonomiya, politika, at sandatahang lakas, ibibigay niya rin sa China?”