PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has rejected a request by the Department of Communications and Information Technology (DICT) for more time beyond March to select a “third player” for the telecommunications industry, Palace Spokesperson Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said.
“There was a request from DICT Officer-in-Charge Secretary [Eliseo M.] Rio, Jr. that they be given two additional months or until May to award and to ensure that the third telecoms carrier is up and about. This was not approved at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting,” Mr. Roque told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
He added, “So we stick it out with the original time frame of a third telecoms player by March of this year.”
Sought for comment, Mr. Rio told BusinessWorld in a text message that “[a]s much as possible, the President wants the end of March schedule followed. But due to the Chinese New Year and the Holy Week falling in the first quarter of 2018, maybe the middle part of April will be more reasonable.”
According to Mr. Roque, the President was “emphatic and issued a warning to the detractors of the entry of the third telecoms player not to test the will of the government.”
The spokesman also said the President was particularly displeased with the new entrant having to find new frequency in order to operate.
“He was displeased with the fact that the frequency given to a shell company CURE (Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprises) which apparently was given for free would have to be bought back by government in order that the third player could be given these frequencies.”
“The President rejected that proposal, that we pay for frequencies that we gave out for free and he warned everyone involved not to test the resolve of the President in allowing a third telecoms carrier to enter the country.”
CURE, a unit of PLDT, Inc., surrendered third-generation (3G) frequency to the government to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) as a condition of its acquisition of Sun Cellular.
The NTC was due to auction the 3G frequency but failed to do so.
Mr. Roque explained that frequency is owned by the state. “They were given for free, and [the President] will not allow the holders to benefit from a free privilege by charging us anything to enable the third telecoms carrier to operate.”
A third player will need 300 mHz. “Three hundred will be given to the third telecoms carrier which would have been enough and that this would be sourced from various sources, including frequency from a shell company that has since been bought by a very big telecoms company now,” Mr. Roque said.
He pointed out as well that the National Transmission Corp. (TransCo), which has its own fiber optic network and right-of-way assets, could become a platform for the third player.
“There was also talk about using TransCo and the President said, we will use TransCo because that is ours — the facilities of TransCo.”
Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin