MANILA -- Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is calling for a congressional inquiry into the Department of the Interior and Local Government's (DILG) "Safe Philippines" Project to mitigate the potential risks to national security or public interest.

Recto filed Senate Resolution No. 990 to look into the PHP20-billion DILG project to be financed and implemented through an official development assistance by the Chinese government.

"It is imperative that the Philippine government review and evaluate government programs and projects and their impact on national security and public interest," Recto said in his resolution.

The Safe Philippines Phase 1 Project is a joint project of the governments of the Philippines and People’s Republic of China to ensure the effective and efficient management of public order, safety and security.

On November 19, the DILG signed the USD396.8-million contract with the winning bidder China International Telecommunication Construction Corp. (CITCC) for the construction and installation of monitoring systems in Metro Manila and Davao City.

Under phase 1 of the Safe Philippines Project, DILG will provide 18 local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila and Davao City with integrated operations and command centers and a remote back-up data center.

Recto noted that Chinese companies and individuals have allegedly been involved in "espionage and hacking activities" over the years.

He also said the primary equipment supplier of the winning contractor for the Safe Philippines Project -- Phase 1, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. -- has been embroiled in issues "concerning national security and data protection."

He said the Cybercrime Prevention Act recognizes the need to protect and safeguard the integrity of computer, computer and communications systems, networks, and databases, and the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and data stored from all forms of misuse, abuse, and illegal access.

He cited the National Security Policy for 2017-2022, which highlights the need to safeguard the Philippine classified action plans and programs, government intentions, and state secrets from espionage and other hostile actions, and the need to shield the country from computer-generated attacks that could cause massive crises in the country's economy, banking and financial institutions, communications, and other critical infrastructure.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier clarified that the Safe Philippines emergency response and monitoring system is not primarily for surveillance but is an integrated system to improve police response time, as well as to deter and reduce crime.

Año said the project will level up the 911 emergency system of the DILG-Philippine National Police (PNP) and will be used to improve public safety, evidence collection in the event of criminal activities, incident prevention measures for disaster-related mitigation and response, and police and fire emergency response in addressing traffic and criminal incidents.

 "A similar system is in place in many cities in the world, especially in large metropolitan cities like Metro Manila. It's about time we have a similar system in our country," the DILG chief said in a news release.

"Under this project, we can reduce crime by 15 percent and improve response time by 25 percent," he said.

Año assured the public that they will take necessary measures, such as installing protocols and standard operating procedures to protect data stored in the CCTV system.

"The DILG will install the necessary firewalls to protect the system from hackers and other threats. This will be installed by the DILG and funded by our government," he said.

“The public also doesn’t have to worry about data breaches in the project as there will be no storage of classified data or information inimical to national security in the CCTV system,” Año said. (PNA)