ABS-CBN closure will lead to more coronavirus infections: Salceda

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 06 2020 10:36 AM | Updated as of May 06 2020 11:45 AM

MANILA - A lawmaker on Wednesday said the National Telecommunications Commission’s move to close ABS-CBN network will lead to more novel coronavirus infections in the country.

"It will increase infections—2,600— basically they lose their primary source of entertainment,” House Ways and Means chair Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said in an ANC interview.

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Based on Salceda's model, millions of Filipinos would lose their primary source of information with the closure of the Kapamilya network. He said Filipinos spend around 4.9 hours every week on television. With the stay at home orders, this may increase time spent on TV by 5 percent.    

"Minodel namin ito based on the time spent on TV, basically how many people get the information on TV entertainment, based on the market share of ABS-CBN...15.1 million Filipinos will lose their primary source of information," he said.

As of Tuesday, the Department of Health recorded 9,684 positive COVID-19 cases in the country including 637 deaths.

"The NTC behavior essentially is aggravating this threat to our national health," he said.

Salceda said the NTC’s cease and desist order has diverted the national focus from the health crisis.

“First week of March nagsisimula na tayong umaksiyong kontra COVID, so the whole March we could have used for congressional hearings. Nawala po 'yun pati na Abril and ngayon pumasok na po kami lahat ng usapin dito basically its social amelioration, minimum health standard, stimulus.”

“Nasa gitna na kami na ibi-bring na 'yung mga output ng mga House committees doon sa floor for approval. So ito ang essentially nagulo ng NTC, dahi nangako talaga sila sa atin sa Kongreso by way of si [NTC Commissioner Gamaliel] Cordoba, sinabi niya sa committee na bibigyan niya ng provisional authority 'yung ABS-CBN,” he said.

ABS-CBN's 25-year license expired on Monday. Officials had previously given assurances the radio, TV and internet giant would be allowed to operate provisionally.

Salceda said that before they went on a break, the mood was to already process the Kapamilya network’s franchise.

“It is more towards approving the franchise of ABS-CBN. The consensus really is to move forward with ABS-CBN kaya nga sinasabi bigyan muna ng provisional authority. Hindi ko alam bakit bumaliktad si NTC,” he said.

The NTC’s cease and desist order on Tuesday cited the franchise expiration and said the outfit's operators would have to appeal for a return to the airwaves.
 
“In general, the House wants to approve the ABS-CBN franchise dahil nagbabayad naman ng buwis, wala namang nilabag na batas…yung problema po talaga ng NTC nakakasira po talaga ng national strategy,” he said.

Salceda said lawmakers in the lower House can technically approve the franchise in a week and then pass it on to the Senate.

“I think it will take us only one week to approve the ABS-CBN franchise and it can go to the Senate. The Senate is ready anyway. How many of them signed, around 16, signed that resolution asking NTC,” he said.

He described the NTC’s move as “surreal”, saying the commission had given provisional authority in previous occasions.

“They could have taken quasi-judicial cognizance that there is such a thing that we are likely to approve the ABS-CBN franchise and alam naman nila nasa gitna tayo ng COVID crisis. Alam naman nilang mas maraming oras nasa bahay, kailangang kumuha ng information,” he said.

Around 11,000 workers could lose their jobs because of the closure of the network.

Salceda stressed that the government’s COVID-19 stimulus package is trying to save jobs in the country.

“This is not a step in the right way. Ang gusto ng stimulus, ng kongreso, is to save as much jobs as possible para we spend less to create one more job for those who have lost them,” he said.