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Duterte orders fast-track of 3rd telco player’s entry in PH

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By Roy C. Mabasa

President Duterte on Tuesday instructed the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to fast-track the entry of the third telecom player to the Philippines to “foster competition in the market.”

“I want this implemented during the first quarter of 2018,” Duterte said in a statement.

The President also directed the NTC to start putting together the terms of reference for the bidding of all remaining telco frequencies.

To further hasten the process, Duterte instructed all national and regional government agencies and local government units to issue the required permits within seven days upon complete submission of requirements.

He said the order also applies to incumbent telecom players.

“If the permits are not issued within seven days, the permits are deemed approved,” Duterte said.

‘Matter of national interest’

The President also warned the courts not to cause further delay in the application of the third telco player which he said is a “matter of national interest.”

“I do not want the courts to interfere and prolong this process. Do not issue any TROs or injunctions. This is a matter of national interest for the benefit of the public,” he said.

Quickly responding to Duterte’s order, DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said his office and the NTC can have a third telco player operational by early March 2018 “to compete with the duopoly as per desire of PRRD.”

“It would help a lot if a strong statement comes from the President that for the benefit of the people, he wants the third player to compete ASAP, and ordering NGAs (national government agencies) and LGUs (local government units) not to delay issuing permits to the new player as well as to existing players, Globe and Smart,” Rio said in a message.

“Also, TROs and injunctions that may unnecessarily delay the improvement of telecom services must be discouraged,” he added.

Transparent selection process

The DICT secretary assured that the selection process of the third telco player will be “very transparent and well defined.”

“That there’ll be no doubt at all the selected telco consortium will be the best to compete against the duopoly,” he further said.

Earlier, the DICT announced that the Chinese government has selected China Telecom to invest in the Philippines upon the invitation of Duterte.

The invitation was conveyed during the Philippines-China bilateral meeting last Nov. 16 between Duterte and then visiting Chinese Premier Li Quekiang.

Due to Constitutional prohibition on foreign corporation ownership, the Chinese company would need to partner with a local firm.

Prejudicial to PH in the future

Meanwhile, detained Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday urged the government to heed warnings that limiting the participation of a third player in the telecommunications industry to Chinese industries would be prejudicial to the Philippines in the future.

De Lima said that while this would be good for the present administration, it is not necessarily the same for the future of the nation.

The senator said the Duterte government should look at the experience of countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, and a host of other Asian and even African nations as a lesson on how China “ultimately demands for its pound of flesh” once it decides to cash in.

She also said the government should also consider the security threat a Chinese telco poses to the country’s information and communication infrastructure.

“What will assure us that in the future, our national security and whole intelligence and defense systems won’t be compromised, if not under the complete control of a foreign government with national interests diametrically opposed to our own?” De Lima said.

De Lima said this is one of the very reasons why the NBN-ZTE deal was scuttled under the Arroyo government, aside from the corruption issues that plagued it.

“Do we really want a country with the most interest in undermining our national security to have a major role in our public utilities, especially communications?” the senator said.

Last week, Malacañang announced that it will limit the participation of a third player in the telco industry to Chinese companies.

“This economically irrational decision can only be explained with the shift in our foreign policy that now heavily leans towards China. After all, both governments do not mince words in describing the present as a golden age of PH-China relations,” the opposition senator said.

“Of course, this is no cause for worry for an administration bent on making the Philippines a Chinese satellite. Already the intention is to make China our center, shunning Western democracies, but without the economic independence and self-sufficiency of the other progressive ASEAN nations to enable us to stand our ground against the Chinese juggernaut,” she said. (With a report from Hannah L. Torregoza)

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