Smart franchise extension gets bicam ok, only Du30 signature needed
MANILA — A law that would grant a fresh 25-year extension to Smart Communications’ congressional franchise, expiring this month, now awaits approval from President Duterte.
The congressional bicameral conference committee, composed of leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, recently approved the extension, which was first granted in 1992.
Ray Espinosa, chief corporate services officer of Smart’s owner PLDT Inc., earlier said the failure to extend the franchise could prompt the group to go into “general default” on existing loans.
Espinosa, however, downplayed any service disruptions as a result of the possible expiration of their franchise. He said PLDT held other franchises, which would allow the group to continue operations of mobile services that covered about half of the country’s population.
The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in January this year, and was subsequently amended by the Senate earlier this month. The amendments were then accepted by the House of Representatives last March 14.
The Senate version, as with the House of Representatives, allowed an exemption to the requirement for Smart to sell at least 30 percent of its shares to the public via an initial public offering within two years. The exemption was allowed because Smart is wholly owned by a publicly traded company, in this case, the PLDT.
As lawmakers earlier insisted on a public listing, PLDT officials argued that Smart had effectively complied with the spirit of the law. They added that an IPO could hurt the value of PLDT.
Smart would likewise be compelled to build telco facilities, specifically in calamity-prone areas, to aid the population in times of disaster. Another amendment was the deletion of the term “co-use” in the franchise. Lawmakers said this would prevent the term from being used in anti-competitive practices. SFM
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