MANILA — Lawmakers on Tuesday welcomed the announcement of Malacanang to allow the entry of a third telecommunications company in the Philippines saying it will force the two other telcos to improve their services.
“A third telecommunications firm is exactly what our country needs to end a telco duopoly mired in mediocrity; a situation that has allowed them to hold the Filipino consumer hostage to poor communications and data services,” Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said in a press statement.
Pimentel, who had previously filed proposals to spur competition between the country’s two major telcos said that the absence of alternatives has 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,” he added. “Our people need fast, stable internet speeds that are reasonably priced. Bringing in a new competitor helps achieve that.”
He, meanwhile, said that the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to allow a third telco player operated by China shows “political will” necessary to address the country’s problems.
Like Pimentel, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the government should make immediate efforts to break the duopoly in the telecommunications sector.
He also advised the government to take control and regulate “this very important public utility.”
“With the current state of our telecom sector under this duopoly, it is in fact even better if it is the government itself that would put up a third entity and provide our people with better, efficient and affordable service,” he said.
“Telecom services should be imbued with public service, and the government should take that responsibility,” Zarate added.
Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said that the entry of foreign players in the telco market would promote “healthy competition.”
“Healthy competition could lead to better services for the consumers. However, our current laws would not allow this,” Poe said.
Poe earlier 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 waterworks and sewerage systems as it should.
She also pushes for her measure’s immediate passage in the Senate after it concludes its deliberations on the tax reform package and budget bills.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino III also welcomed the news but urged Malacanang to also keep their options open to telco players from other countries besides China.
“We are glad that the President acknowledges the need to improve our telecommunications sector by encouraging competition, but we should not be limited to only one country,” Aquino said.
Aquino pointed out that a small country such as Singapore has six telco players and suggested that the Philippines should follow our neighboring country’s example.
He also said that telcos from Japan and Korea have also expressed their interest to enter the Philippine telco market.
On Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque revealed that during bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, President Rodrigo Duterte “offered to the People’s Republic of China the privilege to operate the third telecommunications carrier in the country.”