By Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio

A CONGRESSMAN on Thursday filed a bill that seeks to ban social media platforms and entertainment apps registered in countries in conflict with the Philippines.

The measure will bar these platforms from being used by “foreign adversaries” to manipulate Filipinos,  Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante, Jr. said in a statement.

“With the rising tension between China and the Philippines, the government must take positive preemptive action to ensure that we protect our citizens from manipulation and misinformation campaigns using social media — from any foreign adversary country,” he said.

The lawmaker said apps such as TikTok, which has 49.9 million active users in the country, could be banned.

TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, may put sensitive user data, like location information, into the hands of the Chinese government,” Mr. Abante said in the explanatory noted of House Bill No. 10489.

TikTok, a short-form video-sharing and social media platform, did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.

Mr. Abante said ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok “reveals a connection to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government that cannot be overlooked.”

 “We need to take a preemptive action to prevent the clear and present danger of foreign adversary-controlled companies operating in the Philippines with the purpose and capability of harvesting data from unsuspecting subscribers,” he added.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have worsened in the past year as Beijing continues to block resupply missions to Second Thomas Shoal, where Manila grounded a World War II-era ship in 1999 to assert its sovereignty.

A United Nations-backed tribunal based in the Hague in 2016 voided China’s claim to more than 80% of the South China Sea for being illegal.

House Bill 10489 will authorize the Philippine President to label any foreign country as adversarial, letting him ban the distribution of any apps owned by “adversaries.”

Under the measure, a foreign adversary is a country that directly threatens the Philippines’ national security and territorial integrity.

Filipinos who distribute and operate banned apps face a jail term of 6 to 12 years and a fine of P5 million to P10 million.

Mr. Abante said he drew inspiration from India’s ban on Chinese applications including TikTok in June 2020 after increased border tensions between New Delhi and Beijing.