By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
HONG KONG – President Duterte has created an oversight committee for the entry of the third telecommunications company in the country, saying its entry in the market is a matter of national interest which will ensure genuine competition in the industry and effectively benefit the public.
Administrative Order No. 11, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on April 6 by authority of the President, states that the Oversight Committee will be chaired by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) with the Department of Finance (DOF), which will also serve as the vice chairperson; the Office of the Executive Secretary; and the National Security Adviser as members.
The Oversight Committee is tasked to assist the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in the formulation of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the selection and assignment of radio frequencies. It is also mandated to oversee compliance of the NTC and other implementing agencies with the provisions of the said TOR.
The committee is also tasked to ensure timely implementation pursuant to the timeline established by the DICT and the NTC. It can also call upon other government agencies for assistance as may be required. It may also exercise incidental powers as necessary for proper exercise of its powers and functions.
But the Oversight Committee will expire within 30 calendar days from the selection and assignment of frequencies “subject of the TOR, to a new major player in the public telecommunications market.”
In creating the committee, the President pointed out that the entry of a third telco is of national interest, saying it is the administration’s objective to ensure reliable, inexpensive, and secure telecommunications services.
He also said that telecommunications is an essential infrastructure of the country’s economic development and competitiveness.
The President also cited data from the Global Information Technology Report 2016 of the World Economic Forum, saying the Philippines has one of the most expensive telecommunications services in Southeast Asia, with an affordability level for entry-level broadband services higher than the threshold set by the United Nations Broadband Commission.
He also made reference to the International Telecommunications Union which ranked the Philippines as one of the lowest among Southeast Asian nation countries in its ICT Development Index 2017.
The creation of the Oversight Committee came weeks after the DICT announced that the selection of the third telco player may have to wait until July this year.
President Duterte has ordered the DICT and the NTC to ensure that the third telco player in the country would be up and running before the end of the first quarter of 2018.
But DICT officer-in-charge Eliseo Rio said in a Facebook post that the deadline for the submission of bids for the third telco, which had already been moved to May 24, may have to be moved again.
He assured that the announcement will be done before President Duterte delivers his third State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on July 23.
“We are still finalizing the draft TOR, so that when published for comments, suggestions and position papers from stakeholders, it will be more complete and comprehensive than the first draft,” Rio had said.
“The final TOR must be attractive enough to contenders for the Third Telco Player but at the same time not anti-competitive to the incumbent telcos,” he added.
In February this year, President Duterte rejected the request of the DICT to be given more time to choose the country’s third telecommunications player.
The President has offered the third slot to the Chinese government during his bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Malacañang last November 2017. A month later, Malacañang announced that China has nominated state-run China Telecom to be the third telecoms player in the Philippines.
Later, it was reported that South Korean multinational conglomerate LG Corporation is interested to be the third telecommunications service provider in the Philippines.
Aside from LG, Rio also revealed that Japan’s second-biggest telecommunications company KDDI Corporation expressed eagerness to enter the telecoms playing field.
In March, President Duterte also revealed that India is interested in becoming the new telecommunications player in the country.