A number of politicians in the Philippines have expressed their concern over the threat to national security posed by a potential deal involving Chinese telecommunications operator China Telecom.

The issues was raised in the House of Representatives by members of the opposition after reports circulated that China Telecom was invited to partner with a local company to set up a third mobile player in the country in an effort to pressure the duopoly currently held by PLDT and Globe Telecom.

The Philippines has been plagued by connectivity problems and improving broadband services is an issue the current government is keen to address.

However, in a statement released to the press by the group of politicians they cited that whilst connectivity issues needed to be resolved, it warned that allowing China into the telecommunications environment could present a serious risk to national security. The statement read, “While we agree that telecommunications and connectivity are serious problems in our country, it behooves us to scrutinize the China deal.”

Minority House leader, Danilo Suarez used his column in a national newspaper to outline his concerns over the potential bid by the Chinese telecommunications colossus and highlighted the fact that a US republican representative tabled a proposal which would ban any US government departments from using equipment made by Chinese telecommunication firms Huawei and ZTE.

In his column in the Manila Standard, he said, “Giving China access to the Philippine communications infrastructure is a serious threat to national security.”

It was the current government in the country who identified and selected China Telecom last month as the company that it felt should become the third operator in the country. China Telecom has promised to invest a significant amount of capital in order to overhaul its slow internet services and poor infrastructure. That move was made just weeks after the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte invited China to invest in the country’s telecommunications sector.

State-run companies such as National Transmission Corp and PT&T (Philippine Telegraph & Telephone) have expressed their interest in collaborating with the Chinese operator in order to form a third player in the sector.

The two major players in the telecommunications sector in the Philippines have received numerous warning from the President who threatened to introduce a third player to the market if they didn’t overhaul in the inadequate internet services they’re currently providing. The President said he shared the frustration of the country’s mobile users who are subjected to such slow broadband speeds and connectivity problems.

A DICT representative said in addition to China Telecom, Japan-based KDDI, South Korea-based LG Uplus and an unnamed Taiwan company expressed interest in investing in the country, where they would need to partner with a local company.