'Dissatisfied' Grace Poe seeks clarity on 3rd telco entry

MANILA, Philippines – Senate committee on public services chairperson Grace Poe said many details regarding Mislatel, the winner of the 3rd telecommunications player slot, remain unclear.

During the Senate inquiry on the matter on Tuesday, November 27, Poe said she is dissatisfied with the explanations on cybersecurity concerns and the ability of the new major player to commit to its promises.

"Ang gusto ko lang klaruhin nila ay ito, siguro 'yung national security concern natin na mayroong foreign partner kasi itong Mislatel, na masisiguro 'yung ating kaligtasan din pagdating sa mga impormasyon ng ating mga kababayan, [na] hindi makokompromiso," Poe said.

(I want Mislatel to clarify the national security concerns, particularly with their foreign partner. They have to ensure our safety when it comes to our personal information.)

Several reports have linked Udenna Corporation's partner China Telecom with cybersecurity breaches.

The oversight committee will evaluate Mislatel's proposal and the cybersecurity concerns in 90 days.

The consortium committed to spend P257 billion, jack up internet speeds to 55 Megabits per second (Mbps), and cover at least 84% of the total population after 5 years of operations. (IN CHARTS: Udenna Corp-China Telecom's promises)

Both Smart Communications and Globe Telecom already questioned Mislatel's ambitious plans due to various factors, including right of way, securing permits, and manpower.

Udenna Corporation spokesperson Adel Tamano said they did not craft their proposal "out of thin air" and assured consumers that it was developed carefully.

Should Mislatel fail to commit to its promises, it would lose the performance security of P25.7 billion.

Bidding controversy 

Poe also noted that the win of Mislatel was shrouded with "mysterious forces."

She recognized the concerns of disqualified bidders Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (PT&T) and Chavit Singson's Sear Telecom.

The disqualified bidders had questioned Mindanao Islamic Telephone, one of the partners in the winning consortium, for being unable to utilize its franchise which was granted by Congress.

Sear Telecom wants Mislatel disqualified, saying that Mindanao Islamic Telephone breached a contract with one of its subsidiaries.

Meanwhile, PT&T filed a case against the National Telecommunications Commission for allegedly changing the rules of the selection process.

With these legal obstacles, Mislatel could be ousted as the new major telco player even if it becomes operational.

Acting Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr said they would abide by any court decision.

Poe said she wants these issues resolved and no longer wants further delays. – Rappler.com


Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.