The outbreak of novel coronavirus disease 2019 in Hubei, China affected the rollout of cellular towers in the Philippines by third major player DITO Telecommunity Corp., top executives said Wednesday.
“Hubei Province of China was the one mainly affected, and that is one of the manufacturing hubs of China. The impact on our rollout involved steel or tower components and fiber cable,” DITO chief technology officer Rodolfo Santiago said.
Hubei, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, was under government lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading to other areas.
“But our vendors are confident since they have manufacturing plants in other countries, They would request their subsidiaries doing the rollout in other countries to prioritize the supply in the Philippines,” he said.
“We are sourcing from other countries. Our vendors Huawei, ZTE and Nokia. … they have projects in other parts of the world that may not require a commitment such as ours. So in those countries, they could afford the cost of delay because there would be no penalty in their implementation,” said Santiago.
Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II, however, warned that DITO could lose its certificate of public convenience and necessityand radio frequencies if the company failed to meet its commitment.
The agency is set to audit DITO in July to check if it met its commitment to roll out 1,600 cell sites covering 37 percent of the population with 27 megabits per second speed. DITO had 600 cell sites nationwide as of February this year.
DITO chief administrative officer Adel Tamayo said the company would comply with the target. “We will find ways to mitigate all the effects of the situation so that our rollout will not be delayed. We are going to stick to our timeline.”
“Our position is very strong. Unless we exhaust all the possible alternatives, that’s the only time we would even consider citing a force majeure situation,” Tamayo said.
“Under Philippine law, a force majeure or something like coronavirus can be considered a force majeure. We can use that as legal basis. Let’s say if we have a delay, we can ask for a grace period. That’s the legal side,” Tamano said.
Tamano said the company was on track to meeting the March 2021 commercial rollout as set by the National Telecommunications Commission under its certificate of public convenience and necessity.
DITO would conduct pre-commercial trial in September this year to test the stability of its network.
The company agreed to invest P257 billion over a five-year period, including P150 billion in its first year of operations.