Senators back entry of 3rd telco player to speed up Internet in PH

Three senators have thrown their support behind the government’s plan to introduce a third player in the telecommunications industry to accelerate the Internet speed in the country.

senate hall

At a press briefing on Monday, Nov. 20, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque revealed that during bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte “offered to the People’s Republic of China the privilege to operate the third telecommunications carrier in the country.”

Roque said that all applications will be filed and acted upon directly by the OES, per the president’s instructions.

Roque added that the government will take 45 days to determine which offer will be taken. As foreign-owned companies, the telco proposals will have to be consistent with the constitutional provision limiting foreign ownership of companies in the Philippines to 40%.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Nov. 21, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said a third telecommunications firm is what the country needs “to end a telco duopoly mired in mediocrity.

“Our people need fast, stable Internet speeds that are reasonably priced. Bringing in a new competitor helps achieve that,” said Pimentel.

Pimentel said that adding a third player to the Philippine telecommunications market “is the only way to force the two major local telco companies to improve their services.”

“The absence of alternatives has numbed us to the reality of poor network coverage, dropped calls, disappearing loads, lost text messages, and slow data or internet speeds. This should be unacceptable; our countrymen deserve better,” he said.

Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, said the entry of qualified foreign players into the telco market is a welcome development but current laws do not allow this.

Poe said this is why she filed Senate Bill Number1441, which seeks to amend the Public Service Act that would confine the definition of “public utility” to natural monopolies such as transmission and distribution of electricity, and water works and sewerage systems.

On the other hand, Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said the president’s invitation to Chinese telco players is a viable move but added it is better to open the field to other countries as well.

“Kung ang maliit na bansa gaya ng Singapore ay mayroong anim na players sa telco sector, dapat maging ganito rin kasigla ang kumpetisyon sa ating bansa,” Aquino said.

The lawmaker recalled that while the Philippine Competition Act was being deliberated in the Senate then, he received information that Japanese and Korean firms were interested in entering the local telecom space as well.

“Kahit ang maliliit nating local cable operators ay nais magsamasama upang makipagkumpitensya sa malalaking telcos,” he said. “Gawin nating madali para sa mga kumpanyang ito na makapasok sa merkado at tanggalin na ang red tape upang mapaganda ang serbisyo ng internet at bumaba ang presyo nito para sa mga Pilipino.”

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