Senators back Duterte’s call for improved telecom services

Published December 2, 2020, 3:55 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senators backed President Duterte’s request for a report from telecommunications companies (telcos) on his directive to improve their services before yearend.

Senator Grace Poe (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Together with the rest of the country, I reiterate my call for better services from our telcos. Congress has done its part and we expect improvement with the same expediency that we had in waiving their permitting requirements,” Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said in a statement.

Aside from the telcos’ progress report, she also asked the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) to likewise submit an assessment as the primary regulator of the telecommunications’ services.

“Not only are we keeping watch on the telcos but we are also monitoring the performance of the NTC. Both regulator and telcos must work double time to meet the demands of the new normal,” Poe maintained.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he supports the President’s order, having introduced the provision under the Bayanihan 2, or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One” Act, which suspends for three years the need for many of the permits needed to construct cell towers.

“I have no written report of the number of cell towers constructed since Bayanihan 2. I only know that telco services remain bad,” Drilon said.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, Duterte warned Globe Telecom and Smart Communications of expropriation should they fail to improve services by December.

Poe, for her part, said the Senate public services panel will continue to exercise its oversight function and will also demand for a copy of the reports. She said these should include “a plan with a definite timeline” from the telcos and the NTC.

She said that on Monday, December 7, the committee is also set to conduct a hearing on the franchise renewal application of DITO Telecommunity, the third telecommunications player chosen by the government to break the duopoly of Globe and Smart.

“[The hearing] is also an opportunity for the NTC to show the public how it has been doing its job during the ongoing pandemic. It should be able to show in concrete terms how it ensured compliance of telcos for ample bandwidth allocation and availability of service and signal to its subscribers,” Poe said.

“This pandemic has shown us unprecedented demand. Better services must be delivered in the soonest possible time,” Poe appealed.