Senate approves Mislatel transfer of ownership to Dennis Uy, China Telecom consortium

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2019 06:31 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2019 02:32 AM

Businessman Dennis Uy, a partner in the Mislatel consortium tasked to establish the Philippines' third telco, testifies at a Senate hearing on Jan. 24, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The Senate on Wednesday approved the change in ownership of a company that holds a telecommunication franchise, paving the way for the Mislatel consortium to mount a challenge against PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom.

A measure, sponsored by Senator Francis Escudero, amended sections of the franchise of a company called Mislatel, allowing its ownership to be transferred to the group of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy and China Telecom, which is dubbed the Mislatel consortium. 

The Senate adopted the measure, with only Senators Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson and Risa Hontiveros voting against it.

Drilon opposed the measure, insisting that the original Mislatel franchise should be deemed revoked because the company failed to comply with several provisions of the franchise. 

Drilon noted that Mislatel failed to start operations within a year after it secured its license in the 1990s. It also failed to notify legislators of a change in its ownership.

He said approving Escudero's measure, despite Mislatel's violations, would weaken the power of Congress to monitor compliance with franchises. 

"You don't have to comply, kasi di naman namin ire-revoke," Drilon said. 

The Mislatel consortium secured rights from a government bidding last year to use frequencies for a new telecommunications player.

Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate public services committee that investigated the third telco, said on Tuesday that Mislatel's predicament could be "cured" with "amendments" to take into account national interest.

These include taking out all references to Mislatel as the third player and treating the matter as a "regular" franchise. This will prevent the company from arguing that as the designated third player, it had the rights to the license, Poe said.

"It's for national interest that I'm also doing this. Look, there are certain technicalities, perhaps that point to them not being kosher. There's certain requirements that they didn't fulfill, but this is what they're going to present in exchange," she said.

"When you weigh the risk for the government, it's better to actually take it than again to have this delayed," she said.