3rd telco plan faces new threat
The sheer implications on the country’s national security should prompt the government to reconsider the grant of the provisional third telco status to a consortium owned by President Duterte’s political supporter and a Chinese company, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said on Wednesday.
In a news briefing, Suarez warned that the looming entry of state-owned China Telecom in the local telecom industry posed risks on national security and even the privacy of mobile phone subscribers.
He noted that a government-run Chinese company, State Grid of China, had already been in control of the country’s power system when it bought into National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.
“They already own our electricity [grid], now [they are going after] our telecom,” Suarez said. “Of course, they can also eavesdrop on your calls. They can [do that] if they want to.”
He pointed out that even the US government raised the issue of national security in blocking a Chinese-owned company from investing in its telecommunications sector.
China Telecom, China’s third biggest telco, partnered with businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp. in forming a consortium that won the selection process conducted by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for the country’s next telco provider.
Mounting consumer complaints about poor service led President Duterte to earlier promise to allow a third player to break the duop0ly of PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.
Official records showed that Uy was one of the biggest financial contributors to Mr. Duterte’s presidential campaign in 2016.
Suarez said he would challenge in the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the NTC decision if it would proceed in allowing China Telecom to become part of the third telco.
“There is Japanese technology. There is Korean technology, which can match what is being offered by the Chinese. Why don’t we [get companies] from these other countries?” the Quezon lawmaker said.
“In the event that they push through with it, then I will go to court and invoke national security,” Suarez said.
Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin said the House committee on legislative franchise would also scrutinize the status of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. (Mislatel), the franchise holder tapped by Udenna and China Telecom for the multibillion-peso initiative.
“It is always a condition that whenever there is a transfer of ownership, it needs the concurrence of Congress. We will find out how big is the [business] interest of the Chinese in the [Mislatel] consortium,” Agabin said.
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