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Biz Buzz: Rocking the telco boat

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Biz Buzz: Rocking the telco boat

/ 12:26 AM February 15, 2017

The traditionally quiet National Telecommunications Commission is rocking some boats this week.

Recall that a frequency audit was launched last year in connection with a fresh drive to weed out companies “warehousing” valuable spectrum assets?  These were being stored, presumably to be sold at a later time and likely for a fat profit.

It seems like the NTC is poised to publish this week the list of assigned radio frequencies, including those that have not been paying spectrum fees, and those not using the spectrum assets for their intended purpose, that is to provide services to the public.

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What comes next? We heard those not using their assigned frequencies, or with no plans of doing so, would need to return these to the government—a tall order considering that attempts have been made in the past, to little avail.

This all ties in with the government’s plan to gather unused frequencies for a massive auction, which would be a landmark event in the country.

This includes spectrum assets returned to the government following two major mergers since 2011. These, of course, are the PLDT acquisition of the Gokongwei-led operator of Sun Cellular and the PLDT-Globe joint acquisition of San Miguel Corp.’s telco unit. In both instances, the buyers returned spectrum assets to the government.

The broader plan was to bring in a brave third telco player, as incumbents PLDT and Globe, which control almost all the telco frequencies anyway, would not be allowed to bid.

Just to manage expectations here, no auction date has been set yet.

But it’s fair to say that the NTC and the Department of Communications  and Technology should not sit on this for too long.

We’ve heard there was a fair amount of interest in this planned exercise. Apart from local firms, a company from Europe and at least three telcos from China are looking at participating. This is definitely an event worth watching—should it come to pass. —Miguel R. Camus

Ang Kiukok collectors

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If you’re into art—whether you genuinely appreciate it or are simply an investor—Salcedo Auctions is set to present the biggest collection of works of National Artist Ang Kiukok, to be sold at a single auction at the forthcoming sale of Important Philippine Art on Saturday,  March 3, 2 p.m. at its Three Salcedo Place sales room.

The trove consists of five oils on canvas and several works on paper, with pieces that include “Fish Vendor,” a 1960s tempera in the master’s neorealist transparent cubist style; a museum-quality oil “Crucifixion” from the 1970s, a gift of the artist to a US-based Filipino diplomat during a visit Ang made to New York, and the highlight of the auction, a 4×2-foot canvas painting titled “Fisherman,” which Richie Lerma, former director of the Ateneo Art Gallery, art critic, and the auction house’s art adviser, calls “a masterpiece of figurative expressionism.”

The work was originally commissioned by a Chinese-Filipino businessman, a friend of the artist, who is engaged in the fishing business. As a tribute to his friend, Ang depicted a giant Davao tuna, reputedly the artist’s favorite, being held aloft by a fisherman as the day’s big catch—a show of bounty and strength.

The rising prices of Ang Kiukok have astounded the art market, with two works by the National Artist being sold in March last year by Salcedo Auctions at more than P18 million, with one auction record being set before being eclipsed by another one, during the same sale. The reason for the dizzying rise? The continuing demand for the artist among the rising wealthy class, particularly the Filipino-Chinese, who see the artist as a symbol of the community rising to the pinnacle of the arts and culture, not to mention economic and social scene, and whose subject matter (and the paintings themselves) are seen as ’auspicious objects’ that attract and increase good fortune and prosperity.

(Of course, the late artist was born in Davao, for those of you who want to impress the current political dispensation.)

The rising demand has resulted in the preponderance of dubious pieces. Lerma says that out of 20 presented to Salcedo, only one or at most two pass muster, thus making this collection—which has been thoroughly vetted in terms of provenance and authenticity by the auction house—absolute must-haves for those seeking to get their hands on an original Ang Kiukok.—Daxim L. Lucas

SC-induced population boom?

Notwithstanding the economy’s 6.8-percent growth rate in 2016, some business leaders have more muted optimism for the coming years.

In fact, members of the business community who had followed the clash between the Duterte administration and the Supreme Court over an injunction on contraceptive products are painting a somewhat bleak scenario for the country.

With the injunction expected to result in a total “stock-out” of contraceptives in the Philippines next year, an additional 900,000 births—mostly unplanned—are expected to be added to the present yearly birth rate of about a million.

That’s a veritable population boom, said an economist, who warned that the Philippine economy would soon be groaning under the weight of having so many additional mouths to feed, as well as the attendant rise in health care costs.

“If that happens, will the Supreme Court wash off its hands over the population boom, rise in teenage pregnancies, possibly abortion, too, and the ballooning number of mothers who will die each day from childbirth or pregnancy complications?” a businessman asked.

Our pragmatic economist said he hoped a convening of the Legislative Executive Judicial Development Advisory Council (“Lejdac,” with the inclusion of the judiciary) would break the impasse caused by the court injunction that brought the Reproductive Health Law to a screeching halt.

“The high court’s decision on the Marcos-Robredo protest case is said to be just around the corner, but the petitions to lift the [injunction] have gathered cobwebs at the Supreme Court,” he said. “The biggest question is why?”

(Well, it’s no secret that the influential Roman Catholic Church is opposed to the controversial RH Law.)

Indeed, another businessman aired worries that the Supreme Court might be dancing to the music being played by the Church.

Now bets are going around the business community whether the Duterte-issued executive order on the full implementation of the RH Law will push the court to lift the injunction, apart from the pressure that Lejdac will bring to bear. Will it work? Let’s see. —Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: Business, economy, National Telecommunications Commission, News, NTC
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