Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Tuesday, June 19, scored the delays in government efforts to bring in a third telecommunications player in the country.
In a statement, Pimentel urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the member-agencies of the Oversight Committee for the Entry of a New Major Player in the Public Telecommunications Market to “get their acts together” in the formulation of the terms of reference (TOR) for the selection and assignment of radio frequencies for the new telecommunications company, as the delays “are sending a terrible signal to both the public and the business sector.”
Pimentel said the failure of the Oversight Committee to finalize the TOR over two months after it was formed “is extremely disappointing given the pressing need to break the telecommunications duopoly to encourage competition in the industry and improve services for the millions of Filipinos who use mobile phones.”
“Go on social media or talk to the man on the street; the complaints are the same, regardless of the telco provider: weak signal, disappearing loads, and slow data speeds. Consumers are being held captive by the absence of alternatives,” the lawmaker said.
Aside from negatively affecting consumers, Pimentel said he was also concerned that the business community would be discouraged by the pace at which the agencies involved were proceeding with the drafting of the TOR, especially in light of the government’s commitment to make it easier for investors to do business in the country as reflected in the passage of RA 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business law.
“What kind of message does it send to the business sector when the government agencies involved in an urgent initiative such as this cannot get on the same page? Our country is like a restaurant that has a sign that says it is open for business, but the chefs have yet to decide on what to serve,” Pimentel lamented.
President Rodrigo Duterte on April 6 signed Administrative Order No. 11 creating an Oversight Committee composed of representatives from the DICT as chairperson and Department of Finance (DOF) as vice chairperson, and representatives from the offices of the Executive Secretary and National Security Adviser as members.
Duterte had earlier emphasized that the entry of a third player in the telco industry “is a matter of paramount national interest” that had to be undertaken “in an integrated and transparent manner.”
Pimentel said that while he understood that the members of the Oversight Committee had different perspectives with regard to the issues involved in the TOR, “it is the DICT’s responsibility, as chair of the body, to reconcile these issues and work with its co-members to come up guidelines that will incentivize the entry of a new telco player while protecting the interests of consumers.”
“Two months to finalize a TOR is too long. The Oversight Committee should get things moving because the sooner a third telco player comes in, the better it will be for the consumer,” he said.