Poe says Now Telecom can’t delay 3rd telco selection on mere whim

Sen. Grace Poe said Now Telecom, which has filed a case in court questioning the bidding rules for the country’s third major telco, cannot get in the way in the selection process just because it is unhappy with the financial conditions set by the government.

Sen. Grace Poe confers with ICT resource person Pierre Galla during the Senate hearing. Photo credit: Facebook page of Grace Poe.

“Hindi naman nila puwedeng basta-bastang pigilin ang proseso ng pagkakaroon ng third telco dahil lamang hindi sila nasiyahan do’n sa mga probisyon [ng terms of reference],” said Poe who presided over an explanatory hearing on Monday, October 22, on the government’s search for a third telecommunications service provider.

“Tayo din ay nakikiusap doon sa mga [nag-file] na ‘wag ninyong pabagalin pa ang proseso. Naiintindihan ko na dapat maging patas, okay naman na idaan ninyo ang inyong mga reklamo sa korte pero ‘wag naman para ipapigil dahil lahat naman tayo, ang gusto naman natin ay gumanda ang serbisyo ng ating mga cellphones, ng ating internet, at ‘wag na tayong masyadong magbayad ng napakamahal,” Poe asserted.

The lawmaker expressed hopes that the much-awaited entry of a new major telco player will mean more choices for Filipinos and will truly bring down rates and improve services.

“Nais nating magtagumpay ang bidding na ito… para maramdaman ng ating mga kababayan [ang mas magandang serbisyo],” said Poe,

Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee, said the entry of a third telco player — or even more telco providers in the future — will introduce fresh “competition” in the telco market.

“Ang pagpasok ng third telco ay isang paraan para masigurado ang kompetisyon at mas bumaba ang ating babayaran para sa serbisyo. Puwede tayong makapamili…kung ano ang mas mura at de-kalidad, ‘yun ang ating pakay dito,” said the senator.

The government is set to announce a “provisional” third telco on November 7 barring any decision from the courts, according to Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) acting secretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr.

China Telecommunications, PT&T, Now Telecom, Telenor Asa Group, Udenna Corp., Converge ICT, LCS Group of Companies and TierOne Communications, Mobitel Holding GmBH and an undisclosed bidder are interested in the third telco bid, officials told senators.

The DICT chief said three of eight bidders are foreign firms, with one of them even bigger than Smart and Globe combined.

Poe, however, said national security concerns need to be seriously considered in the selection of the third telco amid spying fears on the government and Filipino citizens.

“Ang seguridad ng ating bansa ay pangunahin din na inyong titingnan. Hindi basta-basta na may namuhunang dayuhan ay mawawalan na tayo ng awtoridad na inspeksyunin na sila ay hindi nagba-violate sa ating mga batas,” said Poe.

Poe said the third telco must also hurdle security evaluations and should not pose as a national security threat.

“Kaya nga sinuspend ko ang hearing na ito dahil ‘pag na-award na nila ito ng November 7, ang pipiliin nilang kumpanya ay dapat malinaw na malinaw na makapasa doon sa security evaluation natin. Kaya nga ang isa sa miyembro ng oversight committee ay si [Defense] Sec. [Delfin] Lorenzana, dahil dapat masigurado na kung sinumang bansa ang mananalo din diyan sa bidding na ‘yan ay mayroong kasunduan talaga sa atin na ‘pag nahuli natin sila na bina-violate ang ating national security policies ay maaaring bawiin sa kanila itong magiging permit na magkaroon sila ng prangkisa dito sa atin,” Poe added.

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