PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has instructed two government agencies to pave the way for the application of a third telecommunications provider in the Philippines, which “will be up and about by the first quarter of 2018.”

“I have instructed the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) and the NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) to fast-track the entry of the third telecom player to foster competition in the market. I want this implemented during the first quarter of 2018,” Mr. Duterte said in his directive, as read by Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., in his press briefing on Tuesday.

He also ordered the NTC to start putting together the terms of reference for the bidding of all the remaining telco frequencies, and instructed national and regional government agencies and local government units to issue the required permits within seven days once all requirements have been submitted.

“If it is not approved within seven days, it is deemed approved. That’s how serious the President is on the entry of a third telecoms player,” Mr. Roque said.

Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar had earlier announced that China Telecom had been chosen to operate as the third telco player in the Philippines in an industry currently dominated by PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc.

Asked whether the government is rushing the application for the entry of the third player, Mr. Roque said: “It is being rushed because we need, desperately, to have better telecoms in this country.”

Mr. Duterte for his part had said: “I do not want the courts to interfere and prolong this process. Do not issue any TROs (temporary restraining orders) or injunctions. This is a matter of national interest for the benefit of the public.”

For his part, Mr. Roque said constitutional restrictions and security concerns will be observed: “Right now, all I can say is we’re beefing up. We’ve given priority to our cybersecurity and I’m sure there would be measures to protect us, to protect our privacy and our national security interests.”

He also assured transparency in the bidding process on the watch of DICT: “The public will know what’s happening. So, the OIC, [Officer-in-charge Eliseo M.] Rio has assured me only this morning of absolute transparency in this regard.”

In a statement, Mr. Rio affirmed that the DICT and NTC can have the third telco player operational by early March 2018.

“It would help a lot if a strong statement comes from the President that for the benefit of the people, he wants the third player to compete ASAP,” he said.

As a disclosure for this story, MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of the PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund, has a unit — Hastings Holdings, Inc. — that maintains interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group. — RAZ