Senator Grace Poe warned on Wednesday the firm Dito Telecommunity of possible revocation of its franchise should it fail to fulfill its commitments to the government by July next year.
Poe said Dito should be able to deliver the promises it made when it was allowed to operate as the third major telecommunication player in the country.
“Definitely, by July of next year, kung hindi pa sila talaga nakakapagbigay ng kanilang mga pinromiso, maaaring na talagang bawiin ‘yong kanilang prangkisa. (if they still fail to fulfill their promises to the government, we can revoke their franchise),” she said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
Poe chairs the Senate public services panel, which handles matters concerning public services and utilities, transportation, communications, and the grant of legislative franchises.
She reminded Dito of its commitment to build cell towers enough to cover 37 percent of the country’s population, and provide internet services with a minimum average speed of 27 megabits per second (Mbps) by July 8 this year.
Dito, however, missed its July 8, 2020 target.
During a hearing of the Senate public services committee last July 1, Dito’s chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said they have 300 operational cell towers, far from the 1,300 they planned to construct for their first-year requirement under their certificate of public convenience and necessity.
Tamano attributed the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns imposed by the government to contain its spread. The company was supposed to start commercial operations by March, 2021.
In the interview Wednesday, Poe said the telco has managed to build only 600 towers so far.
Under the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) terms of reference, Dito was given six more months to satisfy their missed commitments. Within five years, the telco should be able to cover 84 percent of the population and an internet speed of 55 Mbps.
According to Poe, this deadline could be extended for another six months if warranted by force majeur. Still, she maintained that Dito should honor its agreement with the government.
“Kailangan natin ipatupad yan, dahil kung hindi, walang maniniwala na sa mga kontrata sa gobyerno at sasabihin, ‘Bakit natin ‘yan pinalusot?’ (We need to enforce this, because if not, no one will believe the government’s contracts anymore and say ‘Why did we allow this breach?’),” she said.
Poe likewise mentioned that Dito’s franchise is set to expire in 2023, since it only took over the 25-year franchise granted to Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company (Mislatel), which was also hounded with issues.
“Kung ‘yan ang magiging basehan, kung hindi talaga sila nagbigay ng mga napangako at ang serbisyo nila ay hindi maganda by 2023, pwedeng i-cancel ang kanilang prangkisa (If that will be the basis, if they don’t deliver their promises and their service is satisfactory by 2023, we can cancel their franchise),” Poe said.
Aside from the franchise revocation, failure to fulfill their commitments to the government within the prescribed period would result in the forfeiture of Dito’s P25.7-billion performance bond, Poe said.
Dito is a consortium of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation, Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure, and state-run China Telecommunications Corporation. It was chosen by the government to break the duopoly of Smart Communications and Globe Telecom and improve communication and internet services in the country.
During his State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Duterte ordered Smart and Globe to improve their services and warned to expropriate their properties should they fail to do so by December this year.
Poe maintained her position that improving the telecommunication services is a shared responsibility by both the telcos and the government.