MANILA - It will be better to restart the search for the country's third telco player than risk having the franchise of Mislatel, the current winning bidder, questioned in court, Senator Grace Poe said Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, in a hearing last week, said the Chinese-Filipino consortium was ineligible and its franchise was "deemed revoked" for failure to comply with its terms.
The Mislatel consortium is composed of Davao-based tycoon Dennis Uy, China Telecom and the franchise holder, also named Mislatel.
Mislatel, the company, violated the conditions of its franchise when it failed to operate a year after it was granted the license in 1998, said Poe, chairperson of the Senate public services committee.
The firm also failed to offer 30 percent of its stocks to the public within 3 years after receiving the license, and did not notify the Senate of a change in its leadership, she said.
If lawmakers deem the franchise illegal, regulators can restart the bidding process for a new telco player in about 3 months, said Poe.
On the other hand, if the Senate allows Mislatel to operate and the legality of its franchise is challenged before the court, the establishment of a third telco could be delayed for years, she said.
The senator said she would consider national interest in deciding on the matter and would back any legal recourse that Congress can find for Mislatel to operate as the third telco player.
"Kung sasabihin kailangan na talaga natin at mayroong legal na paraan para gawin iyan, 'yan ay aking patutunguhan," she told radio DZMM.
(If it would be deemed that we really need it now and we can find a legal way for that, then I would go for it.)
Poe however also said it would be better to sacrifice 3 months of delay in restarting that bidding process rather than potentially wait for a decade if the franchise questions would face a court challenge.
"'Pag sinabing magkabuhol-buhol pa iyan sa korte, e magsakripisyo tayo nang 3 buwan kaysa naman isang dekada," she said.
(If it will be tied up in court, let's just sacrifice 3 months rather than a decade.)
Only Congress can revoke Mislatel's franchise, said Information and Communications Technology Acting Sec. Eliseo Rio Jr. If the firm loses it, regulators will restart the bidding process for the country's third telco, he told radio DZMM.
"Kung ano ang magiging desisyon ng ating Congress, lower house and Senate, tutuparin namin. Kung sakali hong hindi ma-resolve itong prangkisa ng Mislatel, the delay [in the bidding] will only be 3 months," he said.
(Whatever Congress decides, the lower house and Senate, we will follow. If the franchise of Mislatel is not resolved, the delay in the bidding will only be 3 months.)
"Kasi ang nagpatagal lang noon is iyung paggawa ng terms of reference, that took us 8 months. Pero mayroon na iyun, kaunting adjustment na lang, makapag-bidding po ulit tayo," he added.
(The previous bidding was delayed due to the drafting of the terms of reference, that took us 8 months. But we already have that, there will just be a minor adjustment, and we can have another bidding.)
Poe's Senate committee will hold on Wednesday its fourth and final hearing on the third telco.