MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has offered the People’s Republic of China the privilege to operate the third telecommunications carrier in the country as a means to end the existing duopoly in the vital industry, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the offer was made during the extended bilateral meeting last week between Duterte and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The Palace official said the offer to China was due in part to the country’s proven track record in the telecoms industry as well as in consideration of the warming relationship between Manila and Beijing.

“The President said China has the capital and the technology to provide efficient telecom service. With the number of subscribers that Chinese telecoms companies have in China, there can be no doubt that they are amongst the biggest in the world,” he said.

“Consider also the proximity and the fact that we want to avail of as much economic advantage that we could arising from the renewed friendly ties with China,” Roque said.

While no Chinese company has yet been designated as the third carrier, Roque said Duterte has instructed that all applications be filed and acted upon directly by the Office of the Executive Secretary.

“Upon submission of documents, it will take 45 days to decide whether or not it’s a go or no go. That’s how serious the President is in allowing a third party carrier to come in,” he said.

The offer for a Chinese company to be the third player in the telecoms industry comes after the Philippine government signed with an affiliate of Facebook to build a broadband infrastructure capable of providing a bandwidth of two terabytes per second.

On November 15, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), along with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and Facebook, signed an agreement for the Strategic Engagement and Collaboration to Undertake a Reliable and Efficient Government Internet (SECURE GovNet) project.

Called the Luzon Bypass of the Pacific Light Cable Network, Roque said the project’s capacity is equivalent to the current combined capacity of the duopoly operators today -- Globe Telecom Incorporated and PLDT Incorporated.

“The telecom’s duopoly is about to end with the entry of the Facebook subsidiary as well as the offer by the President of the People’s Republic of China to operate the third telecom’s carrier,” he said.

“The consumers can look forward now to better telecommunications, not just in terms of cellular technology but also in terms of internet speed as well as access,” Roque said.

In the meantime, the President’s spokesperson said that the process of breaking the Smart-Globe duopoly should have been sooner had then DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima signed the deal with the Facebook subsidiary way back in December 2016.

“And this was one of the areas pinpointed by Cabinet investigators as an area of conflict of interest for the former Secretary of DICT,” Roque said.

Salalima previously served as a Senior Vice President for Corporate and Regulatory Affairs of Globe Telecom.

“It was further reported by the special investigating committee that the former DICT Secretary likewise may have prevented the earlier breakup of the duopoly by delaying the use of satellites as a viable option,” Roque said.

He said that the realization period of five years in using satellites would have still left the duopoly in place.

Likewise, under the scheme being pushed by Salalima for the national broadband plan (NBP), the duopoly would still have the right to connect the end users to the NBP backbone.

“And this after government would have spent already PHP 77 billion,” Roque noted.

Duterte asked Salalima, his former law classmate, to resign last September.

The President said he asked Salalima to resign due to complaints alleging the former DICT chief of favoring Globe Telecom.

“This is the latest instance of the President proving that he has the political will to do what is necessary to benefit the Filipino people,” Roque said. (Jose Cielito Reganit/PNA)



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