PLDT, Globe mum on 'competition' EO

By Lenie Lectura, Business Mirror

Posted at Jun 17 2011 07:07 AM | Updated as of Jun 17 2011 09:38 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom Inc. kept mum on a new directive from Malacañang that authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate cases involving violations of competition laws.

“We have to wait and see. We can’t comment at this point,” said Ray Espinosa, PLDT regulatory head, in a text message on Thursday.

Under Executive Order (EO) 45, President Aquino designated the DOJ as the “Competition Authority” in charge of cases involving competition issues to help deter and break up monopolies and cartels in the country to ensure a level playing field.

The order, which stressed the need “to promote competition and level the playing field in the market,” was issued on June 9.

As Competition Authority, the DOJ will enforce competition policies and laws to protect consumers from abusive, fraudulent or harmful and corrupt business practices; supervise competition in markets, through the strict enforcement of competition laws; and monitor and implement measures to promote transparency and accountability in the markets.

PLDT and Globe said separately they have yet to see a copy of the EO.

“We still need to read the EO. We have no copy yet,” said Globe legal counsel Rodolfo Salalima in a text message.

James Go, Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel) president, also refused to comment when he was asked during Thursday’s Cebu Air Inc. press conference. Go is a member of the airline’s board of directors.

The EO was signed at a time when Globe is urging the government to issue new antitrust laws and policies, including one that would impose stricter regulations against a dominant player like PLDT, which is buying majority control of Digitel, the listed phone firm of the Gokongwei family.

Globe had asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue a memorandum circular defining a monopoly and with it include restrictions to protect market rivals; reassign the PLDT group’s frequencies; enforce aggressively interconnection of networks between PLDT and other carriers; and formulate a policy on IP peering, which is similar to interconnection among carriers except that it applies to the Internet space.

“We haven’t seen the EO yet. It’s best if we take a look at it first before we can comment on it,” said NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba. The NTC, in an order issued on June 11, set a second public hearing on PLDT and Digitel’s joint application. Without the green light of the NTC, the PLDT-Digitel transaction could not be closed.

In a public notice, the NTC has set in the afternoon of June 21 the presentation of PLDT and Digitel’s evidence and the cross- examination of its witnesses.

Those opposing the application of PLDT and Digitel may also present their own evidence and witnesses on the same afternoon and, if necessary, the hearing will continue in the afternoon of June 22.

Sealand Telecommunications Co. Inc. urged the regulators not to act with undue haste in concluding the proceedings, “considering that the issue on hand is of national importance as it evolves around the control over infrastructure that plays a vital role in the country’s economy,” said Sealand legal counsel Jose Ismael B. Valmores in a statement.

“Setting aside only two afternoons for the presentation of witness and evidence is too short and clearly insufficient for all parties to present their evidence,” Valmores added.

Under the NTC Rules of Procedure, hearings normally start with a prehearing conference followed by the presentation of evidence by all parties involved.

Valmores pointed out that, under the NTC’s own rules of procedure, those opposed must be given enough time to scrutinize the documentary evidence to be presented by the applicants.

“It would be unreasonable to require the oppositors to submit their comment on the same day that they receive the applicants’ formal offer of evidence. The oppositors would not have enough time to examine the documents and prepare an exhaustive comment,” Valmores said.