The Senate on Wednesday approved on second reading the franchise renewal of third telco player DITO Telecommunity Corp.

The company’s existing franchise under Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co., Inc., now known as DITO, is set to expire on April 24, 2023.

The senators approved House Bill No. 7332, which grants a 25-year franchise to DITO.

Lawmakers approved the provision inserted by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon requiring DITO to report to the President and the Congress any disclosure of data, information, assistance, support or cooperation to foreign government and its instrumentalities.

Failure to do so will be a ground for revocation of the franchise, according to Mr. Drilon.

The amendments of Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel requiring the company to submit regular security audits of network and facilities to the Congress and subjecting its frequencies to review at regular intervals were also approved.

Ms. Baraquel during the interpellation raised concerns about how the company would stay majority-owned by Filipinos.

“From one perspective, it might be called a Philippine arm of a foreign government whose territorial interest are adverse to our own at the moment, and whose political maneuverings within our country threaten to draw us more further into a deepening regional conflict,” she said during the interpellation.

“Yes more competition is welcome but let’s keep our eyes open and our guard up,” she said.
Ms. Baraquel also questioned how much control DITO’s biggest creditor in China would have over the company’s operations.

Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, sponsor of the bill, said that “control will always be in hands at least, technically, and legally, and purposely should be in the hands of the Filipinos.”

She added that foreign ownership in a company cannot exceed 40%, adding that shares will not be given to the bank if a company failed to pay its debt.

“So that’s the risk the foreign bank is taking if it’s found out that they used as a collateral the shares of the company for them to gain control for more than 40%, we can definitely shut them down,” she said.

The telecommunication company launched its services on March 8 in Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte gave DITO a certificate of public convenience and necessity in July 2019.

The House of Representatives approved the final reading of DITO’s franchise on Aug. 24, 2020. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas