President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23 seeking the entry of a third but reliable telecommunication (telco) player in the country was a “strong wake-up call” to concerned agencies.
Senator Koko Pimentel made the remark on Wednesday adding that “telecommunications is just as potent an economic driver as physical infrastructure.”
The President mentioned in his SONA that the administration remained firm in its resolve to ensure that the country’s telecommunication services are “reliable, inexpensive, and secure.”
“It’s as important as sound economic policy. The President knows this, that’s why he reiterated the need for a robust telecom industry, with emphasis on efficiency and low cost,” Pimentel said.
He cited statistics which showed that there are an estimated 73 million cellphone users in the country today, with the figure “ballooning by another 3 million by 2020.”
Furthermore, Filipinos spend an average per day of 3.2 hours online using cellphones and 5.2 hours on other mobile devices and desktop computers, he added.
He lamented that despite widespread mobile usage, the Philippines lags behind major neighbors Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia “in terms of Internet and 4G LTE speeds while charging one of the highest usage rates in the region.”
“Consumers and experts alike attribute the slow and expensive mobile service to the country’s telco duopoly,” Pimentel said apparently referring to PLDT-Smart and Globe.
“We need quicker and cheaper telco service, and we need it now. If no less than the President says so, that’s the time to act fast,” he said.
“Now that the President has declared very adamantly in his SONA that improvement of telecoms services is a top government priority, the lead agencies should take their cue and fast track the rules on the entry of a third telco player,” he said.
He earlier criticized the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the multi-agency oversight committee for the entry of a new major player over the “languid pace with which the long-delayed rules on the assignment of radio frequencies were being formulated.”
“These frequencies would be needed by a new entrant to the domestic telco market,” said Pimentel, chairman of the Senate’s Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship Committee.
He noted that no concrete and positive steps had been taken by the concerned government agencies since he called their attention last month.