Poe says Mislatel franchise validity up to courts

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antenna tower third player

SENATOR Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares on Monday sponsored to the plenary the House concurrent resolution approving the transfer of controlling interest in the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, Inc.’s (Mislatel) to the Mislatel consortium.

House Concurrent Resolution No. 23, which the House of Representatives adopted on Dec. 12, grants the transfer of controlling interest in Mislatel to Davao-based businessman Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings, Corp., as well as foreign partner China Telecommunications Corp. (China Telecom).

In her sponsorship speech, Ms. Poe-Llamanzares, who chairs the Senate committee on public services, said the public should be given the chance to experience better telecommunications service by allowing the government to complete its selection process for the industry’s so-called third player.

“I stand here today to sponsor House Concurrent Resolution 23 to be considered by the collective wisdom of the Senate and all its members. Regardless of the outcome of House Concurrent Resolution 23, the House and the Senate will never abdicate their powers as regards the franchises they have granted, will be granting, and will be renewing or not renewing,” she said.

“There are just a few things that we need to remember here, Mr. President; if Mislatel fails to deliver on its promises, it is going to lose its bond, and will also lose a big chunk of its capital expenditure. It is promising that we will have a 27 Mbps (megabits per second) in the first year of operations, it is promising 37% cell reception to underserved areas. Let’s see. This is a challenge for Mislatel, which needs the Senate’s approval,” she added.

Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said in a television interview on Tuesday that the Senate is expected to vote on the House concurrent resolution on Wednesday, Feb. 6.

Changes in Mislatel’s ownership or controlling interests need Congressional approval as prescribed in the legislative franchise granted to the company under Republic Act No. 8627 of 1998. Under the law, Mislatel is allowed to operate for 25 years. Its franchise is set to expire in 2023.

Mislatel has been beset by legal issues over the validity of its franchise. During a Senate hearing, Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said the company’s franchise was deemed revoked after it failed to operate within its first year and to inform Congress of the alleged changes of controlling interest back in 2015.

As for the legal issues surrounding Mislatel’s franchise, Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said “interested parties” are allowed to challenge the company’s franchise in the courts.

“As regards the ‘red flags’ and ‘allegations of violations’ against Mislatel, interested parties are never precluded to avail of legal remedies in the regular courts. As a matter of fact, Congress is not even precluded to alter, modify or repeal the franchise granted to Mislatel under RA 8627,” she said in her sponsorship speech.

In the House concurrent resolution, the Senate provided amendments removing any reference to the Mislatel Group as the third player. Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said this was done because the franchise could still be questioned in the courts.

“We’re treating it as a regular franchise because later on someone might go to the court and say Congress recognized Mislatel as the third telco,” she said in a television interview on Tuesday.

The Mislatel consortium has until Feb. 17 to submit its business plan, rollout plan, and authentication of foreign documents as part of the post-qualification process.

After the deadline, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will have 15 calendar days to evaluate the documents and require the consortium to submit its performance security of P25 billion. — Camille A. Aguinaldo