By Chino S. Leyco
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III is standing firm on his proposal to auction off the frequency spectrums for the selection of the third major player in the local telecommunications industry.
According to Dominguez, commitment to quality and expansion of service is just one of the goals of the Duterte administration in selecting the third major telecommunications player, shrugging off criticisms that his proposed auction would only discourage aspiring investors.
Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr. said last Friday that prospective bidders might deem the auction process unfair, citing Dominguez’s plan will not provide a level-playing field.
But Dominguez responded that focusing only on quality and expansion of service is disadvantageous to the Filipino people.
“Level the playing field is one of the goals, the other goal is to make sure that the Filipino people benefit from the assets they have,” Dominguez said in an interview last Friday.
“In the past, this (frequency) was given for free, people kept it and the individuals were the ones who sold it. The Filipino people did not earn a cent from it,” the finance chief pointed out.
In particular, Dominguez cited the partnership between the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom, Inc. to acquire the telecommunication assets of San Miguel Corp., which included frequencies given by the government to the diversified conglomerate for free.
San Miguel earned P70 billion from its buyout deal with PLDT and Globe Telecom.
“How much did San Miguel sell it, P70 billion! Obviously, we’re giving away something that has value. Level the playing field is one goal, the other goal is being fair to the Filipino people. That’s the more important part,” Dominguez explained.
Rio hinted last Friday that DICT is prepared to fight tooth and nail against Dominguez, President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s chief economic manager, who is pushing an auction-based search for a third major telco player.
“I will have to, you know, this is a DICT affair,” Rio told reporters. “I have full responsibility therefore I have to decide that I have to go forward because I am being instructed by the President.”
“Secretary Dominguez can come up with his own… defending his own position, but more or less as far as the DICT is concerned, we have I think enough data, enough encouragement to go ahead with the highest committed level of service,” he added.
Sought for his reaction to Rio’s comment, Dominguez replied in a mobile phone message “Noted.”
Earlier, the government issued another draft of the terms of reference (TOR) replacing the points system with a spectrum user’s fee auction that would award frequencies to the highest bidder.
However, the DICT, Rio stressed, prefers the highest committed level of service approach but defended the release of the auction-based alternative as a means of breaking an oversight committee deadlock.