THE GOVERNMENT is set to open bids today to kick of the selection of the new entrant to the telecommunications industry — the so-called “third player” — amid limited participation by foreign firms, a key withdrawal from the selection process by a domestic firm — and a legal challenge.
The selection committee has set the deadline for submission of bids at 10 a.m., which will immediately be followed by the opening of bids.
Bids will be graded according to the participants’ commitments based on three criteria: population coverage (40%), minimum average broadband speed (25%), and capital and operational expenditure plans (35%).
But one day before the bid opening, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) have had to deal with another potential contender asking the courts to intervene amid allegations that auction terms were changed without authority.
Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Co. (PT&T) filed a petition with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati on Monday, seeking “declaratory relief” by upholding an originally-agreed definition of “national scale” as contained in the final terms of reference (ToR).
PT&T noted that the final ToR published in Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 09-09-2018 altered the interpretation of “national scale” to include the qualifier “or particular regions thereof.”
Section 2.3 of the MC defined the required 10-year experience on a national scale as “provisioning, delivery and operation of telecommunications services for a country, or particular regions thereof, as geographically designated by the telecommunications authority of that country.
But item no. 8 in the Oct. 11 clarificatory bulletin of the NTC said the phrase “particular regions thereof” will only apply to foreign companies that are part of a consortium joining the bidding.
“PT&T is requesting for the court to correctly interpret the term ‘national scale’ and in the meantime, compel the NTC to accept the NMP (new major player) bid that PT&T will submit without the required certification, until such time that the case is finally settled,” PT&T President James G. Velasquez said in a briefing on Tuesday.
PT&T legal counsel Kenneth H. Maceren also noted that as the MC was signed by the NTC commissioners en banc and DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr., it cannot be amended by a clarificatory issuance signed only by the chairman of the selection committee.
“The ToR issued by the NTC does not distinguish between foreign and local telecommunications companies insofar as the national region scale is concerned… The clarification which states that the regional operations would only apply in favor of foreign telco company was only signed by the selection committee… thus… cannot amend the provisions of the memorandum circular,” he said.
The NTC declined to comment on the matter, saying in a mobile message, “Since the case has been filed in court, we cannot comment on it at this time.”
Also on Monday, the NTC gained leverage in its court case versus another third player aspirant, Now Telecom Co. Inc., after the Manila RTC denied the latter’s request for a preliminary injunction.
Now Telecom sued the NTC early last month over the P700-million “participation security,” a P14- to P24-billion performance security, and P10-million non-refundable appeal fee in the ToR, calling the terms onerous.
Despite the court decision, the company said in a statement that it will “exhaust all its legal remedies” to obtain an injunction.
Aside from PT&T and Now Telecom, seven other companies picked up bid documents making them eligible to participate in today’s bidding, either in their own capacity but possibly in yet-to-be-announced partnerships: Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp.; a consortium of TierOne Communications International Inc. and Luis “Chavit” C. Singson’s LCS Group of Companies; Dennis Anthony H. Uy’s Converge ICT Solutions, Inc. with South Korean partner KT Corp.; AMA Telecommunication Corp.; Norway’s Telenor Group; China Telecom Corp. Ltd. and Austria’s Mobiltel Holding GmbH.
One of the buyers of bid documents, Villar-controlled Streamtech Systems Technologies, Inc., said over the weekend it will no longer participate in selection.
Eligible bidders must hold a congressional franchise or partner with a company that has one, paid-in capital of at least P10 billion, experience as a nationwide telco provider in the last 10 years, with no outstanding liabilities owed to the NTC as of Oct. 1. They also should not have any relationship with the incumbents Globe Telecom, Inc. and PLDT, Inc.
The winner will receive a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) valid for 15 years or the length of the franchise of a bidder, whichever is shorter; and radio frequency bands of 700 megahertz (MHz), 2100 MHz, 2000 MHz, 2.5 gigahertz (GHz), 3.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz. — Denise A. Valdez