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Third telco Dito’s franchise bid reaches Senate plenary

/ 08:03 PM March 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The franchise renewal of Dito Telecommunity as well as several other telco and broadcast franchise bills have reached the Senate floor for plenary deliberations.

“We recognize that the grant of franchise is just the tip of the iceberg and we need to pursue several reforms like the long overdue amendment to Republic Act No. 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act, and the passage of the Better Internet Act, and Open Access in Data Transmission Act,” Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public service panel, said in sponsoring the franchise bills.

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The bills were first approved in the House of Representatives before it was transmitted to the Senate for consideration of the upper chamber.

“Above all these, we made sure to standardize the contents of all franchises regardless of popularity and extent of coverage. In view of our mandate and responsibility to issue franchises, we scrutinized and carefully studied each of them,” Poe added.

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Dito, which was picked as the country’s third telco in 2018, is seeking another 25-year franchise from Congress.

The company holds a congressional franchise via Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co., which is set to expire in 2023.

“It was given a five-year network rollout to realize its commitment to provide at least 55 mbps of mobile data connectivity to at least 84 percent of the country’s population,” Poe said.

The telco startup made its commercial debut on March 8.

“Dito was able to launch commercially in various areas in Visayas and Mindanao, with good connection reports although it could improve its accessibility in order to serve the market it targets,” the senator said.

“We are hopeful that the entrance of Dito in the telecommunications market would spur the competition for a more affordable and better internet and mobile services available to more Filipinos,” she added.

Poe told her colleagues that her committee sought the assistance of the Securities and Exchange Commission, National Telecommunications Commission and Bureau of Internal Revenue “to ensure that the applicants have complied with the duties and deliverables attached as conditions for the enjoyment of franchises.”

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“As I previously said, serbisyo muna bago prangkisa,” she said.

Aside from Dito, the panel also endorsed for plenary approval the telco franchise bids Instant Data Inc. and Transpacific Broadband Group International Inc. (TBGI), which is seeking a franchise renewal.

Under their franchise, Poe said they are mandated to “create employment opportunities by stressing that the number of job orders, contractual and casual employees, as well as independent contractors, should not exceed 40 percent.”

“Moreover, the applicants shall include as part of their annual report, their efforts to regularize employees and the certification from the Department of Labor that they have complied with the employment requirements of their franchise,” she said.

Poe expressed hopes that the Senate will deliberate on the bills “with the public need in mind.”

“If passed into law, we will not only be making way for a better and more expansive information dissemination and telecommunications service in the Philippines, but we will also be providing our countrymen with much needed jobs, especially as we recuperate from this pandemic,” she said.

Broadcast franchise bids

One of those seeking a new broadcast franchise is the City Government of Davao which gets its resources from Davao’s disaster fund.

Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines’ (UP) broadcast station is seeking the renewal of its franchise, which was first given in 1995.

Aside from the Davao City Radio Broadcasting Station and UP, franchise applicants also include: Rolin Broadcasting Enterprises Inc., Blockbuster Broadcasting System Inc., Tagbilaran Broadcasting System Inc., Servotron Industries Inc., Christian Music Power Inc., Allied Broadcasting Center Inc., Palawan Broadcasting Corp., St. Jude Thaddeus Institute of Technology Inc., Good News Sorsogon Foundation Inc., Baycomms Broadcasting Corp. and Highland Broadcasting Network.

“TV and radio have been part of our culture as Filipinos. It is where we source critical information on a range of issues and has been a medium for entertainment. But more importantly, it provides a crucial line of communication between and among communities,” Poe continued.

“This is the reason why we welcome the grant or renewal of these franchises that will serve or have been serving the unserved and underserved areas of our country,” she added.

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