Duterte wants China-backed telco provider in PH by early 2018

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte wants the government to ensure that China Telecom can begin its Philippine operations by the first quarter of 2018.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced this during a Malacañang press briefing on on Tuesday, December 19.

"The President has instructed DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) and National Telecommunications Commission to ensure that the 3rd telecom provider will be up and about by the first quarter of 2018," said Roque.

The relevant government agencies have also been ordered to "approve all licenses and applications within 7 days only upon complete submission of requirements and if it is not approved by then, it is deemed approved," the spokesman added.

China has chosen China Telecom, the second largest telecommunications company in China, to help set up the 3rd telecom provider in the Philippines, consistent with Duterte's intent to break the current duopoly in the crucial industry.

"The NTC should start putting together the Terms of Reference for the bidding of all the remaining telco frequencies," said Duterte, as quoted by Roque in a statement sent to media.

The President, still being quoted by Roque, also issued a warning against the judiciary which he said may be used to delay the process of setting up the 3rd telco provider.

"I do not want the courts to interfere and prolong this process. Do not issue any TROs or injunctions. This is a matter of national interest for the benefit of the public," said Duterte.

'Absolute transparency'

In keeping with the provisions on foreign ownership of a company in the 1987 Constitution, Roque said China Telecom will have to co-own the new telecommunications company with a consortium of Filipino companies.

"They (constitutional provisions) will have to be observed and I think the scheme they agreed upon is while China Telecom will have 40%, there will be a consortium of Filipino companies that will own 60%," said Duterte's spokesman.

Asked about concerns on cybersecurity and possible corruption in the deal with the Chinese company, Roque admitted the agreement was being rushed.

"It is being rushed because we need desperately to have better telecoms in this country," he said.

He allayed the concerns, saying DICT officer-in-charge Undersecretary Eliseo Mijares Rio Jr assured him there will be "absolute transparency" in processes like public bidding, which will come into play in the awarding of frequencies, for instance.

"The public will know what's happening," said Roque.

Rio had also told the spokesman that the DICT and NTC are confident the 3rd telco provider will be operational by "early March 2018."

Malacañang had previously said the choice of a Chinese company for a third telco provider in the country was a "political" decision, backed by Chinese companies' capability in providing telecom services to millions of customers. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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