PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed into law the bills extending for another 25 years the telecommunication franchise granted to Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (PhilComSat) and the broadcast franchise granted to the University of Mindanao Broadcasting Network and UM Network.
The PhilComSat franchise extension goes on the books as Republic Act No. 11226, which will allow it to continue to “construct, install, maintain and operate in the Philippines ground satellite terminal stations for telecommunication with satellite facilities and delivery carriers.”
The PhilComSat franchise was first granted in 1966, through RA No. 5514, and was extended in 1995, through RA No. 7949. The franchise was set to expire in March 2020.
PhilComSat is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Philippine Telecommunication Corp. (POTC). Its services include providing Very Small Aperture Terminals (Vsat), High Throughput Satellites (HTS).
The franchise includes the right and to conduct cable and wireless operations, such as telephone, mobile, cellular, and wired or wireless telecommunication systems, like fiber optics and multi-channel transmission distribution system.
The newly-signed law will also authorize PhilComSat to improve and extend its services in areas not yet served as well as areas that are hazard- and typhoon-prone. It is required to allow for mobile number portability (MNP) and is prohibited from installing features or functions that will impede the nationwide MNP system.
PhilComSat is required to submit an annual report to Congress.
Meanwhile, the UM Broadcasting Network franchise also won an extension under Republic Act No. 11238. The franchise was first granted in 1995 and is set to expire in September 2020.
The law will allow the Network to “construct, install, establish, operate and maintain… radio and or television broadcasting stations.”
It is prohibited from broadcasting obscene or indecent language and from disseminating false information. It is also required to allot public service time, equivalent to 10% of paid commercials or advertisements.
It shall also be required to report to Congress annually.
Both PhilComSat and the UM Broadcasting Network are not allowed to sell, lease, transfer, grant the usufruct, nor assign the franchise to another person, firm, among others, without the approval of Congress. The grantees shall also offer at least 30% of their outstanding capital stock to Filipino citizens. — Charmaine A. Tadalan