Senate sets hearing on Dito bid for franchise renewal
(Updated, Dec. 3, 8:20 p.m.)
MANILA, Philippines—The Senate has set a hearing for the franchise renewal of the Philippines’ third telco, Dito, according to Sen. Grace Poe on Wednesday (Dec. 2).
In a statement, Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public services, said the hearing would also give the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) the opportunity to prove its worth as primary regulator of Philippine telcos.
The hearing on Dec. 7, said Poe, would be for Dito’s franchise renewal but would also give NTC the chance to “show the public how it has been doing its job during the ongoing pandemic.”
The NTC, the senator said, “should be able to show in concrete terms how it ensured compliance of telcos for ample bandwidth allocation and availability of service and signal to its subscribers.”
Poe said she is one with the call for better telco services and supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for a progress report from telco giants Globe and Smart on improvements being demanded from them and an assessment by the NTC as well.
Poe added that the Senate committee on public services “will continue to exercise its oversight power” and require a copy of the telcos’ progress report but also a plan on improving services with clear timeline from the NTC and telcos.
“This pandemic has shown us unprecedented demand. Better services must be delivered in the soonest possible time,” she said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros earlier urged the Senate to speed up the probe on the AFP-Dito deal citing red flags raised by Philippine experts regarding the “China-owned Dito telco’s intrusion in the country.”
Hontiveros was referring to the agreement which would enable Dito to install cell sites in Philippine military camps.
Hontiveros expressed alarm on CreatorTech’s new study which reveals, among others, that that “ChinaTel reports directly to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and that ChinaTel had close ties with China’s Armed Forces.”
“This fact alone is alarming enough, especially at a time when China continues her adventurism in contested territories in the West Philippine Sea,” Hontiveros stressed.
“This (Dito) is a proxy of a Chinese regime intent on pushing its weight around and imposing its will upon the region,” she added.
Hontiveros urged the Committee on National Defense to immediately hear Senate Resolution 137 which she filed in 2019 seeking to investigate the AFP-Dito deal.
“Time and again, I have raised concerns regarding China-owned Dito telco’s intrusion in the country. The revelations in CreatorTech’s new study are not surprising, given that many of our own experts have already flagged national security issues,” she stressed.
Hontiveros said she has repeatedly warned that “ChinaTel, which has a 40% stake in Dito, is 100% owned by the People’s Republic of China” and that “CreatorTech also thought it necessary to articulate” this warning.
“We, in the Senate, should stop ignoring these blatant red flags. Pambansang interes at seguridad ang nakataya,” she added.
Hontiveros’ warnings was based on a telecommunications study released last month by CreatorTech, an ASIA Pacific consulting firm based in Australia.
The study titled “A Study Into The Proposed New Telecommunications Operator In The Philippines: Critical Success Factors and Likely Risks,” raised serious concern on national security and on the selection and impending operation of Dito Telecommunity-China Telecom as the country’s third telco player. Zac Sarao, trainee
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