One big problem in the search for a third firm for the Philippine telecom industry is the huge amount of investment it requires. In a recent press conference, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said a third telco player world would need to invest $3 to $4 billion in the next five years to be able to offer all the services of the current telecom firms Globe Telecoms and Smart Communications.
But a bigger problem would be that of national security, according to certain quarters, including Philippine business firms and former national officials. “Despite the government downplaying the security risk issue arising from the entry of China Telecom in the Philippines, we believe the threat is real, especially for US firms outsourcing in the Philippines should they switch service offices,” a study by Papa Securities said.
In a Malacanang press conference last month, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Dutere wanted to allow a Chinese company to become the country’s third telecommunications firm – a “political decision” aimed at strengthening Philippines-China bilateral relations. The President issued the invitation in his meeting with China Premier Li Kequiang in Malacanang.
Shortly afterwards, Communication Secretary Martin Andanar said a South Korean conglomerate has expressed interest in the opening, followed last week by DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio saying telecom firms in Japan, Taiwan, and Australia have also expressed interest in becoming the third telecom service provider in the Philippines. There are now, therefore, four foreign firms being considered for the opening.
There might be some security threat should any foreign firm enter the Philippine telecom field, but Papa Securities said China’s possible entry into the Philippines is seen as a matter of great concern for United States firms outsourcing firms, in view of alleged cyber attacks worldwide linked to China in the past.
We hope these concerns do not set back the plans set in motion by President Duterte to improve the nation’s services upon which so much of the nation’s activities – in business, government, and the ordinary life of the people — depends.
We can only stress at this time the importance of taking the greatest possible care lest security and other concerns negate all possible advantages we expect as we proceed with the expansion of our telecommunications industry.
We must also cite the need for the government to assist the current telco firms with their ongoing problems – such as their difficulties in setting up cell sites – to the end that this industry will get all possible support to enable it to maximize its key role in the life of the nation.