The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it will retain its target of naming a third major telco player by May and will not wait for the passage of the law allowing for higher foreign investment in the telco industry.

“We have to push through with the schedule, as the President wants a third player ready,” DICT acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio said in a phone interview.

“If ever, the foreign companies that will partner with the local players, they can then increase their investment if the law is passed,” he added.

The government expects to choose a third player by the first week of June at the latest, as it currently revises selection criteria. The DICT said the operation of the selected player can begin before the end of the year.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian had said that the third major player may wait for the bill liberalizing industries providing public services such as telco, to be passed. He said he expects the measure to become law before Congress takes a break, scheduled later this month.

Under the Public Services Act or Commonwealth Act No. 146, for certain industries like telco, foreigners are only allowed maximum 40% ownership, and must then partner with local companies or entities.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte wanted a third telco chosen within the first quarter, but the DICT extended the timetable in order to gather enough bidders, and has made room for adjustments given its continued fine-tuning of selection criteria. — Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo