THE Congress may consider granting an automatic extension of franchises with pending renewal applications to close the gap in the law that led to the shutdown of ABS-CBN Corp., a senator said on Tuesday.

Kailangan ilagay sa isang batas na kapag ang prangkisa mo ay mag-e-expire at ito ay naihain sa Kongreso at pinag aaralan (There should be a law that when your franchise is about to expire, and its renewal has been filed and is being studied), we can automatically extend it for a certain period,” Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares said in a virtual briefing.

“Definitely this is something the franchise committee in the House as well as the public services committee can look at,” she said.

She said lawmakers may discuss whether to provide one to two years of automatic extension or not. At present, companies with pending franchise applications need to secure a provisional authority from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The NTC had issued a cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN on May 5, a day after its franchise expired, forcing it to sign off. The order came even as the NTC told both houses of Congress that it would grant the network a provisional authority.

Meanwhile, the Senate bill granting a provisional franchise to allow ABS-CBN’s operation until June 2022 still has to get approval from the House before it can hurdle the Senate.

Thirteen Senators on Monday filed Senate Bill No. 1521 in line with its bid to authorize the network’s operation while Congress tackles its franchise renewal.

“It has to emanate from the House, there’s no other way,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said.

The bill extending the franchise of ABS-CBN and unit ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. for another 25 years is still pending at the committee level in the House of Representatives. Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano last week reiterated his assurance that the House will tackle the franchise. — Charmaine A. Tadalan