NOW Corp says 3rd telco criteria 'anti-Filipino'

MANILA, Philippines – Officials of NOW Corporation and its affiliate NOW Telecom slammed the selection criteria for the 3rd major telecommunications player, describing it as "anti-Filipino."

In a Rappler Talk interview on Friday, October 26, Juan Miguel Lopez, investor relations and business development manager of NOW Corporation, claimed that the selection process is skewed in favor of foreign companies.

"It is not supposed to be a foreign-led consortium, it should be on equal partnership with the Filipino and the foreign telecommunications operator. But we are seeing right now in the terms of reference (TOR), you just want them in, period," Lopez said.

The 1987 Constitution specifies that foreign companies can only own up to 40% of a telecommunications company. The majority stake or 60% should still be Filipino-owned.

The TOR also specifies that local partners should have a telco franchise. (READ: Duterte grants franchise to Villar-owned telecom systems)

Lopez said the TOR makes local partners mere "conduits" for the foreign players due to the franchise requirement.

National security, uncertainties

NOW Telecom's legal counsel also warned of security concerns, should a foreign telco be chosen in the bidding on November 7.

"We are allowing state-owned [foreign] companies [in our country]. That is where we have to draw national security, an IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations), not just motherhood statements," lawyer Ian Sia said.

Senator Grace Poe earlier underscored in a Senate hearing that various government agencies involved in security concerns should vet foreign players before allowing them to operate.

Lopez also said the TOR does not compel bidders to lower the cost of services.

"Where is the reliable and low cost of service we are fighting for? It's not there," he said.

Duterte to pick?

With all the complaints against the selection process, NOW Corporation and NOW Telecom insist President Rodrigo Duterte must select the new player himself.

Duterte earlier said that he would select the next major telecommunications player himself should there be issues in the bidding process.

Lopez suggested that the next telco be viewed as a public-private partnership (PPP) project which contains several layers of planning and components.

He said this process would allow agencies like the Commission on Audit and the National Economic and Development Authority to scrutinize interested parties and sections of the overall plan.

Can NOW Telecom afford it?

Despite the criticism hurled by NOW Corporation and NOW Telecom against the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the National Telecommunications Commission, they will still participate in the bidding. (READ: DICT accuses NOW Telecom of delaying 3rd telco entry)

But can they afford it?

NOW Corporation's net income in 2017 was only at P6.8 million and revenues stood at P149 million.

While the figures pale in comparison to the likes of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications, Lopez said NOW has the capability to expand its telecommunications services and is ready to go head to head with other bidders.

"See you on November 7," Lopez said. – 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.

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