Huawei: friend or foe of the Philippines?

A telecom Goliath. [Source: CNN]

By JoeAm

Due credit to regular contributor NHerrera for raising this issue and providing graphic exhibits and some references used herein.

To set the scene for this discussion, we have to recognize that hard battle lines are shaping up globally with democracies facing off against autocratic states China and Russia. Several of those democracies have elected leaders with autocratic tendencies, leading to confrontations that are direct . . . and dangerous.

In the case of the Philippines, there is such a awkward public display of affection between the (still democratic) Philippines and China that it makes us want to exclaim “take it to the bedroom.”

One flash point for the global conflict is Huawei, an enormous Chinese telecom company that has global reach and is being pushed back by democratic states that do not trust the company.

Pushback against Huawei [Source: CNN]

Huawei must abide by Chinese laws, and one recently imposed law law requires Chinese companies working overseas to be intelligence-gathering arms of the State. Government owned or independent, they are required to gather intelligence as required by the State:

“[China’s] Intelligence Law . . . repeatedly obliges individuals, organizations, and institutions to assist Public Security and State Security officials in carrying out a wide array of “intelligence” work. Article Seven stipulates that “any organization or citizen shall support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work according to law.” (Beijing’s New National Intelligence Law: From Defense to Offense)

This conflicts with American laws on privacy and propriety of corporate technology and methods, and so we see the recent arrest and possible extradition of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou from Canada under charges that Huawei, through it’s American affiliate, has stolen trade secrets, conducted wire fraud, and obstructed justice. (Huawei: how the telecoms giant is seen around the world)

That is background, it is intense, it is dramatic, and we will watch it play out as it plays out.

Huawei is already deeply engaged in the Philippines providing equipment for Philippine telecoms and making cell phones sold here. Other Chinese companies are also active, the most prominent being China Telecom which is bidding to provide a video intelligence network across Manila and to become a part of the third nationwide telecom provider in addition to PLDT (Smart) and Globe. China Telecom is a Chinese state-owned and operated corporation. Both initiatives – video network and third telecom – are under review by the Philippine legislature with primary objection being security risks . . . the basic fear driving pushback around the world against Huawei.

Are Huawei and China Telecom friends or foes of the Philippines?

If the Philippines embraces independence, these companies are a risk. Foe may be too strong a word. But they are a risk to the sovereign and legal parameters that frame the Philippine Constitution and laws that emphasize open and fair enterprise, proprietary rights, privacy, and human rights.

Well, herein lies an awkward rub. The current national government, autocratic in style, seems to many to be a risk to the sovereign and legal parameters that frame the Philippine Constitution and laws.

So it is no surprise that the current national government sees Huawei and China Telecom as constructive players in the need to develop strong telecom services across a nation that lacks them.

And, indeed, how can we argue against the need for better telecom services when services here are so unreliable, slow, and expensive?

If China is motivated to provide money and technology to speed things up, meanwhile wrapping the nation tightly within its nationalistic embrace, how can we object if the risks have not yet materialized as damages?

Worst case it.

When a future autocratic Administration’s State Police use facial recognition to find and shoot critics, it will be a little late to judge that the risks are too great. When conflict arises and China can tap into anything the Philippine legislature, Executive, courts, and generals in the Armed Forces of the Philippines say . . . it is too late to peg the risks.

What advice would you provide to the senators who are looking at these cases?

Better service versus sovereign risk?


48 Responses to “Huawei: friend or foe of the Philippines?”
  1. madlanglupa says:

    The article should add ZTE, in that Arroyo originally wanted to build a government-run computer network using ZTE products but the fiasco became well-known not because of the telephony/networking hardware but the handling of the deal.

    Today this government wants its so-called “third player” to rule over with supposedly cheap bottomless bandwidth, but really it’s the ZTE-NBN deal on steroids with even more unpleasant surprises.

  2. “What advice would you provide to the senators who are looking at these cases?”

    Think of how the country may look 30 years from now and do you want your children to live there. The Chinese are building a new city in Manila Bay. Will natives be allowed there after dusk, or be forced to leave like in Intramuros of yore which only let Spaniards sleep within its walls?

    Possibly, Nancy Binay making a lot of sense in the past months is because she has no illusions that the Chinese would mistake her for a maid – and send her out. Persida Acosta might still be hoping.

    but if ever there is a new class of Insulares, which is what the Spaniards called pure-blooded Spanish born on the islands, i.e. Insular Chinese vs. Mainlanders, expect the Chinese to look for pure blood – a lot of Chinese-Filipinos even exclude 3/4 Chinese with one native grandparent.

    they might even require Bong Go to learn Mandarin to be allowed to stay on that island, who knows. Just like they are now already discriminating Hong-Kongers who speak “only” Cantonese.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    The headline sounds like China is commandung the US to stop. But upon reading, it is just merely a suggestion.
    It is still might makes right.

    As far as Huawei, since worldwide Iphone sales, Samsung, even other Chinese players sales went down, and Huwawei went up from nowhere that is telling. Either consumers do not care about the security warnings and down played everything or even though this is most unlikely majority of the sales are from chinese all over the world.

  4. edgar lores says:

    Just a short response as I am enrolled in an online spiritual retreat.

    1. As Huawei was banned by Australia and New Zealand, I consider the company to be a foe of all freedom-loving countries.

    2. In one way, the ban has disadvantaged Australia as Huawei is supposed to have the best 5G technology.

    3. In another way, the ban seems to have resulted in a tit-for-tat battle… with an Australian blogger of Chinese heritage being detained by Chinese Security personnel last week.

    4. Huawei’s microchips are today’s Trojan Horses.

    • 3. Thugs don’t take kindly to being called out. Thus, the tit.
      2. Therein lies the issue, if Philippine telecoms can only provide crappy service, and Chinese good, then the risks may be worth the later pain. I suppose a contingency plan is in order. “What do we do (later) if the gear is being used wrongly by China?” This follows the US pattern of negotiation on trade with China. Specific standards and specific punishments if they are not met. I think good attorneys ought to be able to protect the Philippines by writing into any agreements termination clauses, or right to nationalize, if there are abuses. That kind of measure. Make the potential pain for China so great that the choice to abuse agreements would carry huge risk. Flip the table.

      Enjoy the time off. Peace.

  5. Benjamin Polidario says:

    I was in the market recently for a tablet.
    In all the malls I went to, it was “Huawei, sir, Huawei” in almost all stores
    I kept saying, “What do you have? Anything besides Huawie?”
    Now have a Lenovo.
    Thing is, what guarantee do we have that any gadget “made in China” won’t be subverted by a software “update” to spy on you and send your data and personal info to a clearing house in China?
    We don’t know and can’t say?

  6. Micha says:

    Huawei is alleged to have cutting edge technology on 5G network and that the US is clamping down on it because of this advantage. Some are worried that 5G transmission towers emit radiations that are potentially harmful to humans. How true?

    Here’s an excerpted piece from a social forum :


    Until now, mobile broadband networks have been designed to meet the needs of people. But 5G has been created with machines’ needs in mind, offering low-latency, high-efficiency data transfer

    It achieves this by breaking data down into smaller packages, allowing for faster transmission times. Whereas 4G has a fifty-millisecond delay, 5G data transfer will offer a mere one-millisecond delay–it will permit machines to achieve near-seamless communication.

    The idea behind 5G is to use untapped bandwidth of the extremely high-frequency millimeter wave (MMW), between 30GHz and 300GHz, in addition to some lower and mid-range frequencies.

    High-frequency MMWs travel a short distance. Furthermore, they don’t travel well through buildings and tend to be absorbed by rain and plants, leading to signal interference

    This would likely result in wireless antennas every few feet..with each emitting bursts of radiofrequency radiation (RFR)..

    If we could see the RFR, it would look like a smog that’s everywhere, all the time. They will permeate the Blood Brain Barrier, disrupt cell metabolism, rupture DNA strands, cause oxidative damage etc.


    The new 5G technology utilizes higher-frequency MMW bands, which give off the same dose of radiation as airport scanners.

    Over ninety percent of microwave radiation is absorbed by the epidermis and dermis layers, so human skin basically acts as an absorbing sponge for microwave radiation. Disquieting as this may sound, it’s generally considered acceptable so long as the violating wavelengths are greater than the skin layer’s dimensions. But MMW’s violate this condition.

    With millions of sweat ducts, and 5G’s increased RFR needs, it stands to reason that our bodies will become far more conductive to this radiation.

    US Department of Defense already uses a crowd-dispersal method called the Active Denial System, in which MMWs are directed at crowds to make their skin feel like it’s burning, and also has the ability to basically microwave populations to death from afar with this technology if they choose to do so.

    The Active Denial System (ADS) is a non-lethal, directed-energy weapon developed by the U.S. military, designed for area denial, perimeter security and crowd control. The weapon is also called the heat ray..

    The ADS millimeter wave energy works on a similar principle as a microwave oven, exciting the water and fat molecules in the skin, and instantly heating them via dielectric heating.

    Human test subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none could endure more than 5 seconds..

    For the first millisecond, it just felt like the skin was warming up. Then it got warmer and warmer and you felt like it was on fire. … As soon as you’re away from that beam your skin returns to normal and there is no pain.

    5G, or “Fifth Generation” technology promises speeds of up to 100 times faster than the current model


    • karlgarcia says:

      Globe and Smart plan to implement it in a few months.

      Before, my neighbors here in Parañaque, shot down the intention of Smart to setup a tower.
      In makati, many shot down Globe’s proposals for towers.

      I guess DICT will have a hard time to implement their own projects.
      Like unfinished roads and bridges the right ito eminent domain or right of way is another debatable right. ( because people debate)

      • We are all NIMBY, I suppose. (Not in my back yard.) Govt needs to impose now and then and pay people off. Tough issues arise, for sure.

        • popoy says:

          This techno-eche bucheche is one of more than perhaps a thousand reasons I am so God thankful I am now an octogenarian. I don’t have a cell phone or an Ipad, only old laptops.

          • I’d imagine it is quite possible to live an enriching life without them.

          • karlgarcia says:

            How do you meet with people on a certain time and place……?
            Silly of me, the old fashioned way.
            Daily planner and pen and payphones.

            • popoy says:

              I got a Prof friend (may be a BFF) still alive did not pursue PhD, an economist, taught even at Simon Fraser U; as contemporary teacher, trainor, researcher; I did not see him wear any wrist watch, doesn’t believe in watches, yet he did not miss or was late in his class on lectures. Besides his correct estimate of the moment in time, he verifies from people around him. He has co-authored a book and still working on consultancies. Me? I sleep with my wrist on.

          • chemrock says:

            I get by with old cellphones passed down by friends and relatives who upgrade all the time. They are so up to date that I’m actually currently using sn iphone 6 , passed to me a year ago.

            I am using an old lap top that is now gasping for death. The keyboard is problematic, the screen has a few horizontal lines ( I know it’s caused by wire connection getting loose but I’m terrified of unscrewing the screen) and its plagued with the blue screen death, kicking me out every hour or so that I resort to working in safe mode with networking, just so I can squeeze out a few more months with it.

        • karlgarcia says:

          The problem is they could not pay people off before implementation because of national budget apporoval delays like what is happening today.
          Plus other shades of red tape.

  7. Grace Lim Reyes says:

    Maybe it’s time to rethink our addiction to gadgets and reconsider the possible dangers of technology overuse, dependence, and glut?

    The most difficult part is prying them away from young children. As a parent to a tweener, I really have to put my foot down on too much gadget use. I let my son use his tablet, but we try to divert his attention like teaching him basic electronics or introducing him to our past hobbies when we were also teenagers (i.e., playing vinyl records, hunting vintage records).

    Technology when used properly would benefit us. But we can’t really trust other humans who have nefarious intentions.

    • Wise to be wary, I agree.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Happy hunting ….for vinyls.
      Are there new revived brands for phonographs? Or you have old ones repaired?
      My observation of pinoys have a way to delay obsolescence, there you go.

      • Grace Lim Reyes says:

        Hello Karl! i purchased a pre-loved vintage turntable, a pioneer because I think those old ones would deliver the best vinyl sound quality than the new digital types. Yes, there are new units produced adapting current technology (adding bluetooth and usb ports), but they cost an arm and a leg. Too much for my budget. I also have vintage speakers and amplifiers. Not too loud, just right. Today’s speakers that are sold here go for the boom which most pinoys here like. The louder the better. They are designed for Karaoke singing and waking up the entire neighborhood or performing out of tune all night.

        As for the vinyls. the local music producers here (polyeast) have began distributing re-issued pinoy classics pressed in Germany. They are selling for P1500 each. Rare, second hand opm records could go as a high as 5000-8000 each (a bit steep).

        My apologies to other TSOH readers for getting OOT, but music seemed to soothe the troubled souls in these challenging times. Haha.

  8. popoy says:

    OOT: Could be the eche bucheche of THINKERS.

    THINK : As a POLITY, Is Venezuela a former Philippines? Or will Philippines be an ASAP Venezuela?

    • karlgarcia says:

      We will turn into a Venezuela if our inflation will spike like a few months ago.
      We go with the winds of change like the title of your book.
      Because the US stock market and interest rates are favourable, our economy also improved.

      We will turn into Syria if Marawi is repeated, and if the recent bombings exacerbate
      I keep on reading about our national security policy, security sector reform and national interests
      We have the best laid plans of mice and men that go awry

    • madlanglupa says:

      The difference is that Venezuela is an OPEC member.

      • popoy says:

        During Martial Law I was told by the Chief Weatherman that with Malampaya and the oil vein in the West Philippine Sea ( current China caboodle?) Pres Marcos HAS GOT IT MADE. But history was kind to nature not to Pres Marcos.

        Among countries, every many things could be different except the TURMOIL and UPHEAVAL and the NUMBERS WHO FELL IN THE NIGHT. ,

  9. Micha says:

    Huawei, Ukraine, Iran, Venezuela…these are, according to Michael Hudson, interconnected geopolitical events which helped

    Trump’s Brilliant Strategy to Dismember U.S. Dollar Hegemony

  10. NHerrera says:

    Unlike edgar in his first post above, I spent three days of a non-retreat with balikbayan relatives and friends to such favorite places like Tagaytay and Pansol, Laguna.

    The crux of Huawei’s situation:

    If Huawei lords it over Apple and Samsung through its own enterprise [but not through stealing trade secrets] and creativity, then I say more power and strength to them. But if countries such as shown in the second picture of the blog have evidence enough to either outrightly restrict or put under serious scrutiny Huawei because of spying or potential spying — and later, especially through the development of 5G, be the world’s Big Brother, then that is a serious concern indeed.

    Countries in South America, Africa and Eastern European countries apparently are not putting up a red flag. It is probable that China have given enough development aid for these countries to be prudently silent. I will wager though that the top leaders of these countries are not using the cheaper but comparably capable Huawei but the alternative — such as Apple and Samsung to be safe since their staff certainly must be following worldwide news.

    • True about Huawei if the company competed on a level playing field. But Chinese laws mandate that companies act as arms of the State’s intelligence network, which is in conflict with Western privacy and ownership rights. It is the age old problem. China and Huawei can complain, but until they look within and fix the root problem, few Western states will trust Huawei. The culture of the Philippines, known for piracy and gaming of laws, is closer to that of China, so the fit is not so awkward.

    • NHerrera says:

      Info graphic: Chinese Loans to relatively poor Africa — may help explain why there is no complaint about Huawei in such a big continent with many countries. The loans totaled USD 143 from 2000.

      I do not have comparable info on South America but this item on Latin American Countries which includes South America gives a partial picture of Chinese influence:

      In the past 15 years, China has become the most significant new economic actor in Latin America and the Caribbean. China-Latin America trade increased from almost negligible in 1990, to $10 billion in 2000, to $270 billion in 2012, although the largest portion of this exchange takes place between South America and China.

      Click to access the-geopolitics-of-chinas-rise-in-latin-america_ted-piccone.pdf

      • karlgarcia says:

        It has a pie chart of Latin America’s loans and the biggest piece is Venezuela

        • NHerrera says:

          Thanks for that link, karl: you supplied the item on loans that I was looking for:

          According to the Inter-American Dialogue, during the period from 2005 to 2015, China lent 125 billion USD (around 2.5 % of regional GDP) to countries and enterprises in Latin America. However, China is still far from being Latin America’s major source of foreign direct investments (FDI) and represents roughly 6 % of the region’s total FDI.

          China has especially helped to improve Latam’s infrastructures through its lending. Over the last decade, China invested more in the region’s domestic infrastructure than in any other economy. This has enabled engineering and construction companies to intensively develop their technological and logistical capacities.

          Although China has announced strong investments in Latin America, its capacity to deliver is uncertain. China has also experienced disagreements with Latin American businesses and governments due to contract terms and environmental concerns.

          China will continue to play an important role in Latin America’s near future, especially in terms of investments. Latin America, however, needs to work on guaranteeing investment reciprocity and to improving its understanding of China’s investment model.

          “All in all, China remains a powerful source of investments, loans and trade that cannot be denied. However conditions need to be deeply analyzed, as there are still many obstacles to overcome” explains Patricia Krause, Economist for Coface’s Latin America region.

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