Anti-red tape agency orders NTC to issue license to pay-TV firm

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The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), an agency under the Office of the President, has ordered the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to immediately issue to News and Entertainment Network Corp. (Newsnet), a company owned by businessman Mel Velarde, a certificate of public convenience for the use of certain frequencies.

This was after ARTA found NTC to have violated certain provisions of the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, as well as its implementing rules and regulations after the NTC failed to issue said CPC within the period required by the law and the rules despite Newsnet have complied with all the requirements.

The ARTA was created to implement the provisions of the Ease or Doing Business Law.

In an order signed by ARTA director-general Jeremiah Belgica promulgated last February 12, the anti-red tape body also warned NTC, through its commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, that failure to comply with the order to issue the CPC to Newsnet shall constrain ARTA to file the appropriate case or action in the proper forum.

The ARTA declared as complete Newsnet’s application for a CPC to install, operate, and maintain a local multi-point distribution system (LMDS) to deliver interactive pay television and multimedia services in South Luzon, North Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in the 25.35 to 26.35 gigahertz (GHz) frequency range with the authority to charge rates therefor.

In an affidavit submitted to ARTA, Newsnet last January 31 alleged that, the company has already submitted all the requirements for the issuance of the CPC, such requirements having been duly admitted by the NTC through an order dated October 19, 2018 . The company also said that it has paid the required fees.

In spite of the submission of the requirements and payment of fees, there was still a manifest delay of more than one year in the approval or disapproval of Newsnet’s application for a CPC.

According to Belgica, after due investigation and evaluation of the arguments and documents submitted by both parties and considering that the NTC order dated Oct. 19, 2018 and the official receipts issued by the NTC serve as enough proof or have the same force and effect of a license, permit, or certification, the ARTA declared the completeness of Newsnet’s application and consequently, such application is deemed automatically approved by operation of law pursuant to Section 10 of Republic Act 11032 of the Ease of Doing Business Law.

In its order, the ARTA also directed NTC to submit its compliance report within three working days from receipt of the order. The said frequencies of Newsnet are already being used for many years in Metro Manila. Four years ago, Newsnet applied for provincial expansion which necessitated a CPC from the NTC. Despite the hearings having been finished for more than a year, NTC failed to act on the application.

The implementing rules of RA 1103 require a maximum period of seven working days for processing, approval of licenses, clearance, permits, certifications or authorizations for the installation and operation of telecommunication, broadcast towers, facilities, equipment, and service by the NTC.

Under the said law, in case a government agency fails to approve or disapprove an original application within the prescribed processing time, the said application shall be deemed approved.

Also, NTC’s own Rules of Practice and Procedure mandate it to render a decision within 30 days from the date the application was submitted to the body for decision on the merits. In the case of Newsnet’s application, NTC took more than 10 months without either approving or disapproving it.

While Newsnet applied for a provisional authority to install and operate a nationwide LMDS using 25.35-26.35 GHz, NTC instead issued an order dated January 27, 2020 allowing Newsnet to co-use a different frequency of 26.35 to 27.35 GHZ belonging to a different entity, GHT Inc.

In an earlier submission to ARTA, Newsnet pointed out that while Newsnet and GHT are as claimed by NTC related parties, it is a fundamental corporate principle that the two have legal personalities separate and distinct from each other.

Newsnet also claimed that NTC’s January 27 order which was issued only after the company filed a formal complaint with ARTA is a “ruse maliciously intended to deprive ARTA of its mandate and escape from the consequences of NTC’s inordinate and unjustified failure to act on Newsnet’s applcation for 10 long months.”

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