MANILA (UPDATE) - Malacañang on Thursday downplayed close ties between President Rodrigo Duterte and businessman Dennis Uy, after the latter’s joint venture emerged as the country’s “provisional” new major telecommunications player.
The government on Wednesday selected Mislatel as the third telco player that would go against current players PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom. The consortium includes China Telecom, and Uy’s Udena Corp. and Chelsea Logistics.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the selection of Uy’s consortium underwent the proper bidding process and that the President did not intervene.
“I think it’s a baseless assumption given the character of this President. It is farfetched. Relationship, alliances, friendships do not matter with this president. What matters to him is ‘you follow the law and I’ll be with you, you don’t follow it and I’ll be against you,’” Panelo said in a Palace news conference.
“The President’s policy is not to interfere with his departments as well as the committees created by those departments. The president has nothing to do with any of those biddings, negotiations or contracts.”
Uy, president and chief executive officer of Phoenix Petroleum, and his wife Cherylyn gave a total of P31 million in cash to the Duterte campaign as shown in the president's Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) for his May 2016 presidential bid.
Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan, president of the opposition Liberal Party, said the selection of Uy’s consortium “should be examined carefully.”
“What qualified it in the first place? Why were the other bidders booted out? What is the track record of the winning bidder in the telecommunications business? Was the government opening up the bidding to other players just a formality?”
In November 2017, Duterte ”offered” China the role as an investor in the Philippines’ telecommunications industry. Pangilinan recalled that about a month after, Palace Communications Secretary Martin Andanar named China Telecom as a possible third player in the telecommunications industry.
“Masabi lang (Just so we could say) that the government went through the process? In December 2017, Malacañang said it wants the government to ensure that China Telecom can begin its Philippine operations by the first quarter of 2018. Ito na ba 'yun (Is this it)?” Pangilinan said.
The opposition senator said the government must be more transparent about the bidding process “because allowing the joint venture to enter the industry means giving them access to our daily communication activities, a security issue for our country and our people.”
“We do not want another NBN-ZTE ($329 million) and North Rail ($421 million) anomalous deals in our midst, which if not exposed, would have robbed the people billions of pesos,” he said.
PROCESS NOT YET OVER
Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Officer-in-Charge Eliseo Rio defended the selection process against speculations that the joint venture of Uy and China Telecom was favored.
"'Yung ginawa naming computer program, wala kami talagang discretion, we can't subtract or deduct or add anything to what they've input. 'Yung lumabas 'yung result ito na ang result," he said.
(The computer program we made, we did not have any discretion, we can't subtract or deduct or add anything to what they've input. The result that came out is the actual result.)
Asked if he received a call from Malacañang, Rio said: "Wala po (None)."
Mislatel said its "immediate priority would be to prepare and to consolidate all the required resources in order to provide the best telecommunications services that Filipinos have been aspiring for."
Panelo said while Mislatel emerged as the provisional new major telecommunications player, the other bidders still have the chance to appeal their bids.
Rio said he was confident that the government could rule on the losing bidders’ appeals within the month and give a final decision on the winner of the selection process.
Mislatel beat Tier1, backed by former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson, and Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T).
Singson's group and PT&T were disqualified for failing to meet all the bidding requirements.
One of China's biggest carriers, China Telecom boasts of 281.6 million subscribers at the end of the first half of 2018, of which 217.3 million are on 3G. Its total base is nearly 3 times the Philippines' population. It posted a net income of 13.6 billion yuan (roughly $2 billion) from January to June this year.
A successful telecommunications foray will further expand the footprint of Uy. In the last 2 years, he has parlayed his fuel business, Phoenix Petroleum, into stakes in shipping firm 2GO, the Philippine operator of Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart, hospitality school Enderun, and ISM Communications Corp.