By Vanne Terrazola
Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday clarified that the fate of the franchise of Mindanao Islamic Telephone (Mislatel) consortium has yet to be decided upon by her colleagues in Senate.
Poe, in a television interview, said her sponsorship of the House Concurrent Resolution No. 23 does not equate to its approval in the Upper Chamber.
As chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, she said she merely endorsed on Monday night the House measure seeking the transfer of controlling interest of Mislatel Company Inc. to the consortium named by the government as the third telco player.
“As chair, I sponsored it. It will still go through a vote. The reason why we did this is because this is the mandate of the Senate. I cannot decide on it as chairman [alone]. It has to be the collective wisdom of the body,” Poe told ANC Tuesday morning.
She added she sponsored the measure because of the public’s “desperation” to have a new player that promises better telco services. She said it would be “unfair” not to present the measure on the floor to allow senators to debate on the issue.
“Lahat tayo nananabik na magkaroon ng mabilis na internet (All of us are longing to have fast internet services). It’s for national interest that I’m doing this,” she explained.
Poe said the Senate is set to vote on the House resolution on Wednesday, February 6.
Allaying concerns, Poe said her panel removed any reference to Mislatel as the third telco or the new major player since the validity of its franchise could still be questioned in courts.
“We took out anything that pertains to calling Mislatel a new major player or third telco. We’re treating it as a regular franchise because later on someone might go to the court and say Congress recognized Mislatel as the third telco,” she said.
During the public services committee’s last hearing, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto questioned why the House of Representatives-approved resolution included a provision declaring Mislatel as the third telco. Supporting Recto, Sen. Francis Escudero said Congress has no authority to identify a company as such.
Poe, meanwhile, said Congress is not precluded from altering, modifying, amending or repealing Mislatel’s franchise granted in 1998 under Republic Act 8627. It does not also mean an automatic renewal of its franchise that is set to expire in 2023, she stressed.
She reiterated that even if the Senate gives the green light for Mislatel to continue operating, parties can still avail of legal remedies in the courts.
In her speech, she had said that Mislatel risks losing more than P25 billion in performance bond should they “mess up” with their commitments in the first year of their operation.
Mislatel consortium is owned by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp., Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp., and state-owned China Telecom.