MANILA - The selection of a third telecommunications company by March is not a "hard set deadline," the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said on Tuesday.
DICT Officer-in-Charge Eliseo Rio said they explained to President Rodrigo Duterte that the timetable for the selection of a third telco will be affected by two upcoming holidays: Holy Week in the Philippines and Chinese New Year, which is a week-long holiday in China.
Rio said the Chinese New Year would affect the selection process as President Duterte last year invited China to provide the Philippines' third telco.
"More realistically, it will be around middle part of April," Rio said in an interview with ANC's Market Edge.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that President Duterte denied the DICT's request for an extension of the deadline on the announcement of a third telco.
Roque also said that Duterte rejected the proposal that the government buy back some of the radio frequencies that the current telcos now hold so that these could be assigned to the third telco.
Rio said that PLDT chairman and CEO Manny Pangilinan earlier asked for P3 billion if the company is to return the 3G frequencies it got after buying out another telco in 2011.
Rio said that under the law, the government can pull out these frequencies from PLDT only under two conditions: if these frequencies are not being used, or if the telco holding them is not paying the spectrum usage fee.
In the case of PLDT, the National Telecommunications Commission prevented the firm from using the 3G frequencies, but PLDT kept paying its spectrum usage fee, according to Rio.
"So, that is the situation right now," Rio said.
The third telco is expected to commit to spend around P500 billion over 5 years, while providing affordable subscription rates, fast internet speed and a plan to cover as much of the country as possible.