DESPITE new hurdles, Filipinos might yet still see a new major player (NMP in the Philippines telecommunications (telco) industry.
But an NMP must beat the odds in order to even start operating.
The new hurdle against the third major telco player in the country emerged from Congress after the Senate investigation on the Mislatel consortium in the Senate last week.
Senators questioned the compliance on January 24 of the winning bidder, Mislatel, a consortium that brings together Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics, both owned by Dennis Uy of Davao City, and China Telecom as well as the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company.
Probably the biggest stumbling block in a gauntlet of obstacles is what Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted is Mislatel may not possess a valid franchise in order for it to operate.
It’s franchise, he said, is “void” for not operating within a specified time frame as called for by its franchise.
The hearing at the Upper Chamber of the Legislature is being conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe.
DICT Acting Secretary Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. (SDN file photo)
Meanwhile, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) headed by Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. stays optimistic about the country having a new major telco player that can challenge Smart Communications and Globe Telecommunications.
DICT issued a statement today, January 26, assuring the constancy of its “commitment to facilitate an objective, transparent, and legal process of entry of a new major player (NMP) in the Philippine’s public telecommunications market.”
It said it trusts Congress’s wisdom in deciding on Mislatel’s franchise.
The next hearing will be on January 27, with Uy, an ally of President Rodrigo R. Duterte again invited.
Meanwhile, Rio, in his post on Facebook on Saturday took exception to Drilon’s statement.
Rio said the senator “made it appear that the Selection Process for the Third Telco done by DICT/NTC was faulty considering that the awarded New Major Player, Mislatel, has no valid franchise as required by the Terms of Reference (MC-09-09-2018), since its franchise is ipso facto revoked.”
The DICT chief was Drilon’s claim is “far from the truth.”
Rio said NTC spent much effort in doing its due diligence to ensure that all requirements of the MC are complied with.
He recalled that NTC at the time of the pre-qualification period, asked Congress in a letter about Mislatel’s franchise’s validity “and got the answer that on record, their franchise has never been revoked.”
Part of Rio’s post:
“In other words, since there is no declaration of revocation by competent authorities, NTC has no right to consider the franchise as revoked as the presumption of regularity and the validity of the franchise must be respected.
“The truth is that so many telcos may have in one way or another ‘violated’ their franchises, but without due process, none of these franchises have been actually revoked.”
“We are confident that our representatives from both Houses would keep the public interest in mind in resolving the matter,” the DICT statement said.
It also assured its compliance with whatever Congress may decide.
“Nevertheless, the Department is ready to accept the decision of the Congress on the issue of the NMP and act accordingly to make sure that the Filipinos gets a third player that it deserve, may it be Mislatel or another.”
DICT also emphasized that amid the issues surrounding Mislatel, the telco consortium will continue with the completion of its post-qualification requirements towards obtaining its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN).
It added, citing a report of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) it made at the Senate hearing, that Mislatel “already secured the (1) PCC (Philippine Competition Commission) approval of Bidding Agreement Implementation and the (2) SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) clearance finding terms of Bidding Agreement compliant with foreign Equity ownership.
DICT, meanwhile, said the consortium have until February 27 to submit to the NTC a copy of their Business Plan, Authentication/Consularization of Foreign Documents, and Roll Out Plan.
At Senate, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri issued a warning on the panel about opening a Pandora’s Box if it becomes “too strict” with the franchise of Mislatel, Rappler reported.
“We should not be too strict. If we will, let’s cancel everything and let’s start a review,” said the senator from Mindanao. He pointed out that some 90 percent of congressional franchise holders violate some of the law’s provisions.
On the other hand, DICT is not losing hope.
“Despite legal and technical hurdles, the DICT remains optimistic that it will soon deliver its promise of a competitive telecommunications industry to the public,” it said in its statement. (EKU)
This story was updated for DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio. Jr.’s statement on Facebook over Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s assertion about Mislatel.
Here is the DICT Statement in full sent to SDN — Science and Digital News.
Jan. 26, 2019
Official Statement of the DICT on the franchise validity of Mislatel
“The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) maintains its commitment to facilitate an objective, transparent, and legal process of entry of a new major player (NMP) in the Philippine’s public telecommunications market.
“With this, the DICT is trusting the wisdom of the Congress to decide on the validity of Mislatel’s franchise, which was at the center of the Senate Committee on Public Services’ questioning last 24 January 2019.
“We are confident that our representatives from both Houses would keep the public interest in mind in resolving the matter.
“Nevertheless, the Department is ready to accept the decision of the Congress on the issue of the NMP and act accordingly to make sure that the Filipinos gets a third player that it deserve, may it be Mislatel or another.
“In the meantime, the Mislatel consortium will continue completing its post-qualification requirements to obtain its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN). Based on the report of NTC during the same Senate hearing, the consortium already secured the (1) PCC approval of Bidding Agreement Implementation and the (2) SEC clearance finding terms of Bidding Agreement compliant with foreign equity ownership. They have until 17 February 2019 to furnish the NTC a copy of their Business Plan, Authentication/Consularization of Foreign Documents, and Roll Out Plan.
“Despite legal and technical hurdles, the DICT remains optimistic that it will soon deliver its promise of a competitive telecommunications industry to the public.” DICT)