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Sen. Tito Sotto says it is ‘possible’ for government to take over PLDT and Globe Telecom

“We heed the call of the President to improve telco services,” Globe said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Tuesday that it is ‘possible’ for the government to takeover PLDT and Globe if the duopoly continues to deliver poor service to the public.

President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to have PLDT and Globe Telecom face “closure” or “expropriation.”

“That is possible. The government can remove those franchises anytime with another law,” Sotto told ANC.

He added that the government ran a telephone service in the 1960s and that the telcos “should seriously take up what the President said.”

Sotto also said that foreign investors shouldn’t be worried about Duterte’s remarks as it only applies to the duopoly.

“To each his own,” he added. “We’ll just have to accept the fact that that is the style of the President. The formal speeches are not his strength. He got extemporaneous,” Sotto said.

During his fifth SONA, Duterte said: “Kindly improve the services before December. I want to call Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, better have that line cleared.”

“If you are not ready to improve, I might just as well close all of you and we revert back to the line telephone at kukunin ko yan (I will take that) expropriate ko sa gobyerno (to the government),” he said.

Further, Sotto said Congress had already passed a law that “practically removed red tape already.”  and that telcos must report those who violate the law so the government can “go after these people who are giving you a hard time,”

Infrawatch PH convenor Terry Ridon on the other hand said Duterte’s threat on the telcos was a form of “regulatory capture of the country’s major public firms.”

“There is no more going around this: The President himself is leading the attack on regulated sectors on the flimsiest reasons. This does not in any way advance the public interest: it impinges economic growth, undermines confidence in the economy, and violates the sanctity of contracts. Improving telco services without government support will not happen by December 2020,” he said in a statement.

“If President Rodrigo Duterte is serious about improving telco services, he should order national agencies and local governments to expedite the approval of at least 25 regulatory permits for the building of a single cell tower,” he added.

DITO Telecommunity, which is enjoying the Duterte’s support, aims to challenge Globe and PLDT. The incumbent even said that there was “no corruption” in the consortium. DITO is owned by Duterte crony Dennis Uy.

Right after the SONA, Globe issued a statement saying it has been an active partner of the government in handling the pandemic.

It also said that it helped private and public hospitals, worked with DepEd to address the education through low-cost data plans and devices, as well as teacher training, online platforms, and mental health support.

Globe also pointed out the P1.3 billion assistance it gave customers in the midst of the pandemic.

“We heed the call of the President to improve telco services,” Globe said.

The slow internet services provided by the duopoly are usually unavailable and costly in far-flung areas which make DepEd’s initiative of online learning an impossibility for many.

“I call on our communication companies to improve their services lest we be forced to take drastic steps to address the less than ideal service that the public is getting from you,” Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address at the opening of the second regular session of the 18th Congress.

“If it’s a question of added capitalization or infusion of money, go and look for it. Look for it because if you are not ready to improve, I might just as well close all of you and we revert back to the line telephone and I would take it, expropriate it to the government,” he added.

Duterte also said that he himself has difficulties in reaching people because of poor services by the telcos.

“Better have that line cleared,” he said.

In the event there will still be poor services, he said that the telcos should inform him so he can improve telco services in his last two years “without you.”

“I will talk to Congress and find a way how to do it,” he added.

DITO Telecommunity is expected to launch commercially in March 2021.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology promised to examine the permit application process of telcos. Globe last week said it needs the government’s help in building infrastructure for better services.

Globe added that more cell towers and fiber cables are needed but local governments and homeowners’ associations are hampering the permits process.

Written by Charles Teves

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