3rd telco player main­tains va­lid­ity of fran­chise

The Philippine Star - - NEWS - By RICH­MOND MERCURIO

Min­danao Is­lamic Tele­phone Co. (Mis­la­tel), the fran­chise holder in the con­sor­tium that was de­clared pro­vi­sional new player in the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try, yes­ter­day re­futed claims ques­tion­ing the va­lid­ity of its fran­chise.

“The Mis­la­tel fran­chise is un­ques­tion­ably valid and sub­sist­ing. The Na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (NTC) it­self had is­sued a list of na­tional telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions fran­chises that were el­i­gi­ble for the se­lec­tion process for the new ma­jor player for the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try,” Mis­la­tel said.

“In ad­di­tion, dur­ing the se­lec­tion process at the NTC, the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee con­firmed the va­lid­ity of the Mis­la­tel fran­chise,” it added.

The com­pany’s le­gal coun­sel, how­ever, de­clined to com­ment on the is­sue raised by in­fra­struc­ture think tank In­frawatch PH that Mis­la­tel has no fran­chise and thus should be stripped of its newly won en­ti­tle­ment as chal­lenger to the so-called “du­op­oly” in the lo­cal telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor.

In­frawatch PH claimed that the con­gres­sional fran­chise granted to Mis­la­tel in 1998 had been au­to­mat­i­cally re­voked af­ter the group failed to list in the stock mar­ket, a con­di­tion set for the grant­ing of fran­chise.

Mis­la­tel also de­nied the breach of con­tract ac­cu­sa­tions made by the group of politi­cian Luis “Chavit” Sing­son, par­tic­u­larly that TierOne has an ex­ist­ing and ex­clu­sive con­tract with Mis­la­tel specif­i­cally for the se­lec­tion process for the third telco player.

Sing­son’s group was among the three that sub­mit­ted bids, but its of­fer was dis­qual­i­fied for lack­ing cer­tain re­quire­ments.

“The sim­ple fact is that Mis­la­tel has no con­tract with TierOne. What Mis­la­tel had was a ter­mi­nated con­tract with a com­pany called DigiPhil that was meant for small projects,” Mis­la­tel said.

“To be very clear, the con­tract with Digiphil was not in­tended for the pur­pose of sub­mit­ting a bid with the NTC for the new ma­jor player for the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try. A sim­ple read­ing of the con­tract shows that it makes ab­so­lutely no ref­er­ence to the third telco bid,” it added.

Mis­la­tel added that the con­tract was ter­mi­nated on Oct. 5.

“TierOne sub­mit­ted a failed bid with the NTC although they had a valid fran­chise, through Sear Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. Their bid was dis­qual­i­fied not be­cause of any act on the part of Mis­la­tel but rather merely be­cause they were un­able to se­cure the re­quired par­tic­i­pa­tion se­cu­rity, which was re­quired by the NTC’s Terms of Ref­er­ence and the In­struc­tions to Par­tic­i­pants for the se­lec­tion process,” Mis­la­tel said.

“Un­like TierOne, Mis­la­tel has com­plied with all of NTC’s re­quire­ments and this is why it has been con­ferred pro­vi­sional new ma­jor player sta­tus. The NTC se­lec­tion process has been fair and trans­par­ent and for fail­ure to even com­ply with a ba­sic re­quire­ment, TierOne has been right­fully dis­qual­i­fied,” it added.

Mis­la­tel part­nered with Den­nis Uy’s Udenna Corp. and sub­sidiary Chelsea Lo­gis­tics and China Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions to form the Mis­la­tel con­sor­tium, which was de­clared as the pro­vi­sional new ma­jor player on Wed­nes­day.

Fail­ure to list in stock mar­ket

But a for­mer law­maker yes­ter­day in­sisted that Mis­la­tel does not pos­sess a valid leg­isla­tive fran­chise.

Terry Ri­don of party-list group Ka­bataan said the fran­chise of Mis­la­tel should be deemed “au­to­mat­i­cally re­voked” for fail­ing to list in the stock mar­ket.

“That’s what the com­pany’s fran­chise law it­self pro­vides,” he said.

Ri­don said if the De­part­ment of In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Tech­nol­ogy (DICT) and NTC de­cide to de­clare the Mis­la­tel con­sor­tium as the third telco, “we are cer­tain that they would find them­selves act­ing in grave abuse of dis­cre­tion.”

Ri­don said the Uy con­sor­tium as­serted that Mis­la­tel’s fran­chise was still valid and has not lapsed yet.

The group claimed that the NTC has ac­cepted the va­lid­ity of Mis­la­tel’s leg­isla­tive fran­chise, Ri­don said.

But Ri­don said the Uy con­sor­tium has not ad­dressed Mis­la­tel’s fail­ure to list in the stock ex­change, which he added led to the au­to­matic re­vo­ca­tion of its fran­chise.

“The NTC mis­tak­enly ac­cepted their bid de­spite their non-oper­a­tional con- gres­sional fran­chise. The con­sor­tium should have con­ducted com­pre­hen­sive due dili­gence to en­sure that their bid is iron­clad and with­out weak spots,” Ri­don said.

Ri­don has urged DICT Act­ing Sec­re­tary Eliseo Rio and NTC Com­mis­sioner Ga­maliel Cor­doba to re­quire the Uy group to clar­ify the fran­chise is­sue in a trans­par­ent man­ner in their postqual­i­fi­ca­tion process.

“Any­thing less than an ac­cept­able and di­rect re­sponse on why Mis­la­tel has failed to list in the stock ex­change should warrant their dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from the se­lec­tion process,” he said.

Ri­don added that he has ut­most con­fi­dence in the

in­tegrity of both Rio and Cor­doba.

“I think they will do the right thing, given the de­vel­op­ing cir­cum­stances,” he said.

For its part, Chelsea Lo­gis­tics on Fri­day main­tained the va­lid­ity of the fran­chise, cit­ing the telco’s in­clu­sion in a list pre­vi­ously re­leased by the NTC.

“We wish to clar­ify that prior to the se­lec­tion process for the third telco, the NTC pub­lished a list of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions en­ti­ties with ex­ist­ing leg­isla­tive fran­chises. Mis­la­tel was in­cluded in the list,” Chelsea Lo­gis­tics said in a state­ment.

Chelsea also main­tained that the NTC has ac­cepted the va­lid­ity of Mis­la­tel’s fran­chise when it vet­ted the doc­u­ments dur­ing the re­view last Wed­nes­day.

Free Wi-Fi in SUCs

For his part, Sen. Sonny An­gara is look­ing for­ward to faster im­ple­men­ta­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s free Wi-Fi project in state uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges (SUCs) with the ex­pected en­try of the third ma­jor player in the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try.

The gov­ern­ment’s free WiFi project has a to­tal bud­get of P1.7 bil­lion for 2018, which in­cludes P326 mil­lion for SUCs and P1.36 bil­lion for free Wi-Fi in pub­lic places.

An­gara said free in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity in SUCs can help stu­dents with their re­search, school as­sign­ments and projects.

With free Wi-Fi ac­cess, An­gara added, de­vices such as lap­tops, tablets and smart­phones can con­nect stu­dents to a wealth of text, au­dio and video con­tent not found in text­books. – With Jess Diaz, Janvic Ma­teo, Ce­cille Suerte Felipe

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