By Denise A. Valdez
MOVES to usher in the country’s third major telecommunications service provider could face a slight delay, as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) awaits legislative clearance of the Mislatel Consortium’s franchise.
“They could not start because basically we could not give them the frequencies and the CPCN (certificate of public convenience and necessity) — ‘yung kanilang [their] permit to operate as a telco — until we get the approval of the bicam[eral conference committee],” DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. said in a media briefing on Monday.
Mislatel’s 90-day post-qualification period had lapsed on Sunday, Feb. 17, but the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) could not move ahead with the granting of frequencies and the CPCN to the group until Congress agrees on a resolution granting the transfer of Mislatel’s ownership to the consortium.
Kailangan bicam[eral conference committee action is needed], because ’yung resolution ng Congress has slightly different wordings than the resolution of the Senate. Ginagawa ng Congress is to reconcile all this. ‘Yun ang hinihintay namin (That is what we are waiting for). It’s status quo until we get that,” Mr. Rio said.
Earlier this month, the Senate adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 23, approving the transfer of controlling interest from Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, Inc. (Mislatel) to the Mislatel Consortium to clear the way for the franchise transfer. The Mislatel Consortium consists of China Telecommunications Corp., Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. The group, represented by its spokesman Adel A. Tamano, said it has submitted to the NTC all required documents for post-qualification of the third telco auction, which it won in November.
“[T]he Mislatel consortium has submitted all relevant documents for post qualification. Mislatel is awaiting for the final disposition of Congress regarding the approval of the transfer of controlling interest of Mislatel so that the binding bidding agreement can be implemented,” Mr. Tamano said in a text message.
“In the meantime, it is our understanding that the NTC will evaluate our submissions per the Terms of Reference.”
Senate Public Services Committee Chairman Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, however, clarified there will be no need for bicameral conference committee meetings on this matter.
“The truth is, there is no need for a bicam on the Mislatel Resolution,” she said in a text message.
“For one, it is a concurrent resolution — the Senate needs only to concur, it has given its concurrence… [W]hile there may be amendments on the resolution like removing the reference that Mislatel is the ‘3rd Telco Player’ or ‘New Major Player’, the resolution’s main objective is to effect the transfer of sale of the controlling interest. That objective is intact and allowed still in the adopted Concurrent Resolution 23.”
She said the House of Representatives need only adopt the Senate version with these “minor amendments,” adding that DICT should not “micro-manage” the issue.
Under the rollout plan which the Mislatel consortium submitted to the Senate in January, commercial launch is supposed to take place in late 2020, assuming it would receive its frequencies and CPCN in March.
Congress, now on a Feb.9-May 19 break, will have only May 20-June 7 left to work on measures.
Given this development, the earliest the DICT could award the frequencies and CPCN to Mislatel would be later in May — two months late in the group’s timetable.
“From the calendar of the Congress, the earliest we could get this would be after the election,” Mr. Rio said. “We could not really give them those frequencies. They also have to post their performance bond, but they can only post this once they get their frequencies. So talagang naghihintay lahat [everything depends] on the approval of Congress.”