In a speech at the Senate on Monday, May 22, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian criticized the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for failing to impose stricter regulations in the use of public spectrum to compel telecommunication companies to improve their services.
“The dismal state of the telecommunications industry has never impelled the NTC to recall a single spectrum from the telcos. The very-slow-yet-very-expensive telecommunications services that every consumer has to put up with has never motivated the NTC to recall from the duopoly the spectrum that is not being used to efficiently and effectively meet public demand for telecommunications services,” Gatchalian said.
The NTC, the regulatory body that oversees the telecommunications industry, is led by lawyer Gamaliel Cordoba. He has occupied the post as NTC commissioner for eight straight years now under three presidents — Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III, and Rodrigo Duterte.
But, Gatchalian said the NTC has failed to effectively sanction the telecommunication companies despite their sloppy delivery of services because of the weak regulatory framework, particularly the absence of penal provisions in Republic Act 7925 (or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines) and the ineffective provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 146 (or the Public Service Act enacted in 1936), which only allowed the NTC to impose a fine of P200 per day of violation against erring firms.
The senator said there is a need to review Public Telecommunications Policy Act to introduce reforms and arm the government with weapons to run after telco companies.
In his sponsorship speech outlining key policy recommendations and legislative propositions culled from public hearings conducted by the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, Gatchalian said the government must “close” the “digital divide” in the telecommunications industry “in order for everyone everywhere to get the most out of the digital revolution.”
Gatchalian proposed that government impose clear service standards as a condition for telecommunication companies to continue using their allocated spectrum as he stressed that effective regulation is the ultimate solution to improve industry services.
Gatchalian added that the NTC should set specific durations for spectrum use to stop big companies Globe and Smart from further monopolizing the use of the spectrum.
Also, Gatchalian proposed that the NTC be given fiscal autonomy and its commissioners a fixed term of office to enhance its independent cloak and stop its regulatory capture by industry stakeholders.
“It is time to give the NTC more teeth to better regulate the industry, as it is only with effective regulation that we can ensure that the profit orientation of the telcos is tempered by the welfare of the consumer,” Gatchalian stressed.