3rd telco player maintains validity of franchise
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