Saturday, April 20, 2024

Senate votes to affirm Mislatel’s franchise, change of ownership

The Senate on Wednesday, February 6, gave the green light to a consortium put up by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy to break the duopoly of two telecommunications giants Smart-PLDT and Globe Telecom.

The Senate concurred with House Concurrent Resolution 23, which formalized the sale of the controlling interest of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company (Mislatel) to Uy’s Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Holdings Corp. and the state-run China Telecommunications Corp.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and Sen. Risa Hontiveros voted against the resolution.

“The NMP (new market player) is committed to providing Filipinos with unprecedented and unparalleled quality of telecommunications services, made possible only by the organizational unity, fiscal cooperation and technology transfer between and among Mislatel and its committed investors,” the resolution stated.

Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. own 35 percent and 25 percent, respectively, while China Telecom holds a 40-percent stake. Mislatel will act as the franchise holder.

The government had formally declared Mislatel consortium as the country’s provisional third telco carrier after the two other bidders — PT&T and the Singson-led SEAR Telecom, composed of LCS Group and TierOne — were disqualified.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services which conducted four hearings on the matter, had said her panel removed any reference to Mislatel as the third telco or the new major player since the validity of its franchise could still be questioned in courts.

Poe said even if the Senate gives the green light for Mislatel to continue operating, interested parties are not prevented to avail of legal remedies in the courts.

Drilon had said Mislatel’s legislative franchise is deemed revoked after it failed to operate one year after it was granted license in 1998. Drilon said Mislatel also failed to inform Congress of a change in its leadership.

But Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) acting secretary Eliseo Rio said this could be cured through an act of Congress “because Congress gave the franchise in the first place so that’s being studied right now.”

Poe previously said she sponsored the measure because of the public’s “desperation” to have a new player that promises better telco services and because she feels it would be “unfair” not to present it on the floor to allow senators to debate on the issue.

Poe said Mislatel also risks losing more than P25 billion in performance bond should they mess up with their commitments in the first year of their operation.

Poe said the resolution does not in any way prevent Congress from altering, modifying, amending or repealing Mislatel’s franchise granted under Republic Act 8627 should it fail to make good its commitments regarding coverage and internet speed.

It does not also mean an automatic renewal of its franchise that is set to expire in 2023, she added.


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