The Senate on Wednesday approved the franchises of DITO Telecommunity Corp., another telecommunications company, and granted four broadcast franchises on the chamber’s last session day before the Holy Week recess.
Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Committee on Public Services, steered the passage of the measures.
The franchise of DITO, poised as the country’s third major telco, got the approval of 17 senators, with opposition Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan voting against it and Sen. Panfilo Lacson abstaining.
DITO, owned by Davao-based Dennis Uy, aims to break the dominance of Smart/Philippine Long Distance Company and Globe Telecommunications.
Poe said the entry of DITO as a major player in the Philippine telecommunications market would spur the competition for more affordable and better internet and mobile services available to more Filipinos.
In the House of Representatives, House Bill 7332 seeks to renew DITO's franchise for another 25 years. It requires the company to offer at least 30% of its common stocks to Filipino citizens.
Moreover, the company must also ensure that at least 60% of its employees will be regularized and that the number of contractual employees shall exceed 40%.
The bill also requires DITO to submit an annual report to Congress on its compliance to the terms and conditions of its franchise. Failure to do so will result in a ₱1 million fine for each day it fails to submit a report.
National security concerns have been raised repeatedly over DITO’s operations, as it is 40% owned by a Chinese state-run company.
DITO holds a congressional franchise via Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, Inc. (Mislatel), which is set to expire in 2023. It launched commercially on March 8 in various areas in Visayas and Mindanao after being selected by the government as the new player in the local telecommunications market.
It was given a five-year network rollout to realize its commitment to provide at least 55 mbps of mobile data connectivity to at least 84 percent of the country's population.
Also approved on third and final reading was House Bill No. 7615, under Committee Report No. 207, which seeks to grant the franchise of Instant Data Inc.
Likewise approved on third reading were four broadcast franchise applications:
• House Bill No. 7488, under Committee Report No. 212, seeks to grant the franchise of Davao City Radio Broadcasting Station. In light of the priority agenda of the Davao City government on disaster risk reduction, they plan to set up a community radio for emergency response and preparedness. The broadcast station will also be used to disseminate advocacy campaigns, as well as the city's programs and projects.
• House Bill No. 7616, taking into consideration Senate Bill No. 1462, under Committee Report No. 214, seeks to renew the franchise of the University of the Philippines System. DZUP 1602 is the official radio station of UP, which airs in Mega Manila, Central Luzon, and Southern Tagalog. Its radio programs are the collaborative effort of the different colleges and units of the University.
• House Bill No. 8553, under Committee Report No. 217, seeks to renew the franchise of Palawan Broadcasting Corp. At present, Palawan Broadcasting has radio stations in Taytay and Coron, Palawan, and in Catbalogan, Samar. In its early days, the company operated specifically for urgent personal messages or “panawagan.” After being shut down during Martial Law, it continued its broadcast services in 1986 and has been incorporating news, education, and entertainment formats.
• House Bill No. 8860, taking into consideration Senate Bill No. 2059 under Committee Report No. 221, seeks to grant the franchise of Highland Broadcasting Network Corp., which will provide broadcast services in Northern Mindanao in unserved and underserved areas, specifically the agricultural towns there.