“We had several committee hearings and discussions on this issue and Sen. Grace said we want to see your commitments,” related Zubiri to DITO officials.
“And they have complied. Even the National Telecommunications Commission and a third-party non-government organization had conducted an accounting of their actions,” Zubiri said during the interpellation on House Bill No. 7332, which seeks to renew the franchise of DITO for another 25 years.
Poe noted that DITO, previously called Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, Inc. (Mislatel), was able to fulfill its commitment to attain 37 percent coverage of households and businesses, maintain minimum average broadband speed of 27 mbps and cover 7,425 barangays, among others.
But Sen. Risa Hontiveros questioned China’s control over DITO, noting that the state-run China Telecom has a 40-percent share of the company.
She also said the company borrowed $500 million from the Bank of China to fund the first phase of its network development program with a commercial launch this month.
The opposition senator noted that access to data, information, and knowledge should be a basic human right, and that ensuring access to affordable and reliable data services is essential to the continued development and economic growth of the country.
“But this doesn’t mean that we should be, maybe naive, and ignore certain facts about DITO’s ownership from one perspective,” Hontiveros said.
“It might be called the Philippine arm of a foreign government whose territorial interests are adverse to our own at the moment, and whose political maneuverings within our country threaten to draw us further into a deepening regional conflict,” she stated.
Sen. Richard Gordon questioned Poe on how sure is she that the franchise the Senate will be granting DITO will be controlled by Filipinos and not by the Chinese.
“Honestly, sincerely, are we so sure that this franchise will be controlled by Filipinos and not by the Chinese?” Gordon asked.
In her response, Poe said that she is not hundred percent sure that the company could guarantee that there would be no flaws, but she is banking on the huge investments and safeguards the Senate would put in place as motivating factors for DITO to deliver on its commitments.
“It is in the interest of the Filipino board members and owners of DITO to make sure that they are compliant with our laws and guidelines of the franchise, if not, that can be grounds to cancel their franchise,” Poe said.
DITO, the third major player in the telecommunications sector after Smart/PLDT and Globe Telecoms, holds a congressional franchise via Mislatel, which is set to expire in 2023.
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