SENATE President Aquilino Pimentel III commended on Tuesday the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the operations in the country of a third telecommunications carrier from China—seen as a move to put an end to Filipino consumers being held hostage by poor communications and data services.
The current telecommunications industry in the Philippines is dominated by PLDT-Smart and Globe Telecom.
Pimentel said a third telecommunications firm was exactly what the country needed to end a telco duopoly mired in mediocrity-- a situation that had allowed them to hold the Filipino consumer hostage by poor communications and data services.
By acting decisively to address this problem, Pimentel said the President was showing the kind of political will necessary to address the long-standing problems of the country.
“Our people need fast, stable Internet speeds that are reasonably priced. Bringing in a new competitor helps achieve that,” he said.
Pimentel, who had previously put forward proposals to encourage competition between the country’s two major telecommunications firms, said adding a third player to the Philippine telecommunications market “is the only way to force the two major local telco companies to improve their services.”
He noted the absence of alternatives had numbed Filipinos to the reality of poor network coverage, dropped calls, disappearing loads, lost text messages, and slow data or Internet speeds.
“This should be unacceptable; our countrymen deserve better,” stressed the senator, who earlier this year urged the National Telecommunications Commission to direct the country’s telcos to adopt Mobile Number Portabilty to spur competition among the Philippines’ telecoms giants.
MNP is a feature that allows mobile phone subscribers to retain their mobile phone numbers even if they switch to a different carrier.
Under the current system, the first four numbers of a mobile phone number are assigned to specific carriers, thus forcing mobile phone subscribers to change numbers when switching to a different telco.
Senator Grace Poe said the entry of qualified foreign players into the telco market would be a welcome development.
Healthy competition could lead to better services for the consumers. However, current laws would not allow this.
“This is why I filed SBN 1441, which seeks to amend the antiquated Public Service Act that would confine the definition of “public utility” to natural monopolies, which are the transmission and distribution of electricity, and water works and sewerage systems as it should,” she said
These “natural monopolies” will still be restricted by the constitutional limitation on foreign ownership (60-40)
As chairman of the Committee on Public Services, Poe said she would push for its immediate passage in the Senate, and had, in fact, scheduled for a hearing on this as soon as the Senate concludes its deliberations on the TRAIN and budget bills.
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino said he was happy that the President recognized the need to improve the telecommunications through competition but, we should limit it to only one country.”
He said if a small country like Singapore had six players in the telco sector, this kind of competition should slso prevail in the Philippimes.