TELECOMMUNICATIONS giant Smart Communications said they expect to sign the contract on providing the data center with the consortium of Smartmatic Corp., and Total Information Management (TIM) Corp., supplier of the automated machines for the May 10 polls within this week.

Ramon Isberto, Communications chief and spokesman for Smart, said they are just finalizing some details and "minor details" are now being ironed out.

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He said the Smartmatic and Commission on Elections (Comelec) representatives already visited the site they proposed and have no objections on it.

"They've looked at the site we proposed and possibly within the next few days we can finalize it and sign the contract," Isberto said in an interview at the sidelines of the induction of the newly elected officers of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) over the weekend.

When asked what are the major concerns that Comelec and the supplier of the 82,200 precinct count optical (PCOS) machines wanted to be addressed properly, Isberto said "they are asking us to double the security features" in order to ensure that it would be difficult for hackers or those with ill intentions of manipulating the results of the elections will not prevail.

Isberto also declined to give the exact location of the data center that they are offering but he hinted that "it is within the Metro Manila area."

The data center will serve as the main data banks of the Comelec for the coming May 10 elections and all copies of the election returns, certificate of canvass and other important documents will be received there.

The Smart executive also belied reports that the issue on payments was the stumbling block between Smartmatic and the telecommunications giant.

“It's not money, it’s really the security features,” stressed Isberto.

Renato Garcia, Comelec consultant for automation project, also said that the matter of payments was not the prime reason why the signing of the contract between Smart and another telco-Globe Telecoms had been delayed.

But he admitted that the payment would be higher than the approved rates of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) since “ours would be a private network.”

Last week, both Globe and Philippine Long Distance Telephone-parent company of Smart Communications refused to allow their facilities in Metro Manila to be used as data centers due to fear of security attacks and technical issues. (MSN/Sunnex)