Philippine Daily Inquirer

Confidence issue of 3rd telco

- RAUL J. PALABRICA

Under normal circumstan­ces, the selection of the consortium consisting of Udenna Corp., China Telecom, Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. and Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. (Mislatel) as provisiona­l third telco operator would be welcome news.

The consortium headed by businessma­n Dennis Uy, a significan­t financial contributo­r to President Duterte’s election campaign, appears to be a viable alternativ­e to the PLDT and Globe Telecom duopoly.

But no, its selection has been marred by questions about the legality of the disqualifi­cation by the National Telecommun­ications Commission (NTC) of two other bidders—the Sears consortium led by former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson and PT&T—for their failure to meet certain prequalifi­cation requiremen­ts.

Mislatel’s participat­ion in the consortium is also under scrutiny because of its alleged violation of the conditions of its franchise and the transfer of its ownership without the prior concurrenc­e of Congress.

In addition, Rep. Danilo Suarez, the minority leader of the House of Representa­tives, has served notice of his intention to question before the Supreme Court on national security grounds the constituti­on- ality of the award in case the Uyled consortium is named third telco operator by the NTC.

Considerin­g Uy’s political clout, it is doubtful if any of these legal challenges will succeed. Months before, President Duterte said he wanted a Chinese company to break the PLDT-Globe duopoly.

The President’s “love affair” with China and Chinese companies is evident from his attendance in several China-sponsored social activities and ribbon-cutting ceremonies of Chinese companies in the country.

Thus, for all intents and purposes, the provisiona­l award to the Uy-led consortium is a done deal.

No amount of protests from some sectors of our society will overturn the NTC ( or higher ups?) order to allow a Chinese government-controlled company to have a hand in the operation and management of a vital aspect of our daily life.

Judging from the financial statements of the companies that comprise this consortium, it is apparent it has the resources needed to build, operate and maintain a telco that can provide relief from the duopoly’s poor services.

That capability, however, is not assurance it will be able to easily win the patronage of the subscriber­s of PLDT and Globe.

This early, expect the two telcos to exert all efforts to improve their services and strengthen their hold over their customers to discourage them from switching to the incoming telco operator.

Even if the consortium is able to meet its constructi­on and operation commitment­s, it has a huge credibilit­y or confidence problem ahead of it.

The participat­ion of a Chinese government-controlled company in the consortium has, rightly or wrongly, engendered fears the private data of its subscriber­s would find their way to China’s database and be used for surveillan­ce or unauthoriz­ed purposes.

The lingering question is: Can China be trusted to abide by our data privacy laws?

Note that in earlier surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations, China suffers from a low trust rating among Filipinos. This mistrust is exacerbate­d by reports of China’s aggressive actions in some islands in the West Philippine Sea that are within the Philippine­s’ exclusive economic zone.

President Duterte’s public expression of admiration for China ( which some quarters describe as subtle subservien­ce) despite such actions has failed to ease skepticism about China’s true intentions in its commercial dealings in the Philippine­s.

And now comes the prospect of a Chinese government-controlled company getting involved in the operation and management of a telco that will handle private and public communicat­ions.

Thus, for personal security reasons, some telco users cannot be faulted to entertain second thoughts about giving up their PLDT or Globe subscripti­on in favor of the Uy-led consortium.

A tough confidence or credibilit­y problem awaits President Duterte’s protégé.

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