DND asked to review P500m cybersecurity budget

by Manila Standard | October 19, 2020

Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the Commission on Audit on Monday to review the Department of Defense’s 2020 spending on cybersecurity in light of its proposed P500-million fund for the same category in 2021.

“It’s not clear where the cybersecurity fund goes. I flagged this amount because we want specifics. We want to make sure the DND is spending the P500M wisely,” Hontiveros said.

At the department’s budget hearing, Hontiveros tried to clarify the figures according to the document the agency submitted to the Senate Committee on National Defense.

She inquired if there were cybersecurity funds against China’s interference through the towers inside their camps. Are these funds in the budget and where are they [itemized]?” Hontiveros said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they classified cybersecurity measures under the AFP Modernization Fund. In the proposal, a provision of P5 billion was allotted for the AFP Modernization Fund under the Unprogrammed Fund.

“There’s 500 million pesos to improve our cybersecurity capability in the Modernization Fund of 2020, and another 500 million for 2021,” Lorenzana said, but did not elaborate on the specific items related to cybersecurity spending.

Earlier, Hontiveros flagged the DND’s budget proposal amid the recent business deals between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the China-owned DITO Telecommunity Corporation.

“What we need to see from the DND is a robust cybersecurity road map that does assure us that our Armed Forces is more than ready for inevitable cyberthreats,” she said, adding that one of the country’s biggest cybersecurity threats was the persistent interception efforts of China-backed groups.

In May this year, at the height of the global pandemic, a hacking group believed to be part of a unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army targeted the Philippines’ government agencies and government-owned companies in its mission to gather “geo-political intelligence.”

Additionally, Hontiveros said, in April 2019 a Chinese cyber espionage group known as APT10 reportedly targeted government and private organizations in the Philippines.

That same month, the Analytics Association of the Philippines also found Chinese-related scripts inserted in the source codes of government websites, including the Philippine Navy’s website.

“China is clearly trying to gather data that could compromise the Philippine Navy, our first line of defense in the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros said.