A day before Xi Jinping’s visit, Mislatel was confirmed as third telco player

November 20, 2018 - 3:17 PM
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China Telecom
A sign of 5G is pictured at the booth of China Telecom during an internet expo at the fifth World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, November 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Jason Lee)

Some Filipinos are questioning the confirmation of the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company Group, which the Chinese government owned China Telecommunications Corporation is part of, a day before Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to the Philippines.

The National Telecommunications Commission on Monday, November 19 confirmed that the first submission package of the Mislatel consortium, which includes China Telecom, Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. and Udenna Corporation was “complete and compliant” with the Preliminary and Detailed Evaluation phases of the selection process.

It will have 90 days to submit its organization framework, business plan, roll out plan and other requirements the selection committee may impose.

Mislatel had previously been granted provisional authority after its competitors Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and SEARS Telecom Consortium were disqualified for submitting incomplete documents. Both filed motions for reconsideration with the NTC but were junked.

PT&T on Friday elevated its appeal to the Supreme Court questioning its disqualification from the selection process.

The selection of Mislatel despite the inclusion of China Telecom, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, was questioned after it was granted provisional authority.

Among the concerns raised were the Chinese firm’s cyber-security issues and the supposed presidential connections of businessman Dennis Uy, the head of Udenna Corp.

Some continue to welcome the entry of a Chinese firm in the Philippine telecommunications industry ahead of Chinese leader Xi’s state visit to discuss projects with his counterpart President Rodrigo Duterte.

Department of Information and Communications Technology on Monday clarified that the confirmation of Mislatel ahead of Xi’s visit had nothing to do with the head of state as the announcement was merely “within the timebound of the terms of reference” for the selection of the third telecommunications player.

“We had the bidding on November 7, those who were disqualified had three days to appeal, three days for decision, before it goes to the NTC en banc,” DICT Assistant Secretary Eliseo Rio said during an interview with CNN Philippines.

Welcoming the new player

Mislatel promises speeds of up to 27 megabits per second in its first year in the market and 55 mbps in its second year, far above the minimum of 5 mbps set by the highest committed level of service method used during the selection.

Among those who questioned the selection of Mislatel is Infrawatch PH, an infrastructure policy think tank. Former Kabataan Party-list representative Terry Ridon, convenor for the group, claimed that Mislatel Corporation lost its franchise in 2003 when it failed to register with the stock market.

Opposition senators  Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima, Francis Pangilinan, and Antonio Trillanes IV also questioned the selection process and called for transparency on the issue. In a statement, they said that allowing a new telecommunications company into the Philippine market had security implications.

They also warned against anomalous deals with foreign corporations, bringing up the cancelled controversial multi-million dollar national broadband network deal with Chinese  ZTE Corp.

“We do not want another NBN-ZTE ($329 million) and North Rail ($421 million) anomalous deals in our midst which, if not exposed, would have robbed the people billions of pesos,” they said.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended the selection of Mislatel, saying that it had gone through a legal and transparent selection process.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri also defended the selection and downplayed concerns raised over constitutional infirmities in letting China Telecom take part in the Mislatel consortium.

“National security concern, probably not because the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines is 40 percent owned by a state-owned Chinese company. They are doing their part in helping develop our energy sector,” he said during a press conference.

Under the current constitution, foreign-owned companies are limited to forty percent ownership in service-related ventures.