MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the quick approval of a third telecommunications services provider so operations can begin by the first quarter of next year, in a bid to improve quality in the sector, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
The Southeast Asian nation last month offered China the “privilege” of challenging the longstanding duopoly of PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom Inc, whose internet and mobile phone services across the sprawling archipelago can be inconsistent.
Should any company apply for a telecommunications license, Duterte has ordered agencies and regulators must “ensure the third telecom provider will be up and running by about the first quarter of 2018,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a regular news briefing.
Regulators are required to approve all applications and licenses within seven days upon complete submission of requirements, Roque said. The government has yet to announce whether it has received any applications since Duterte’s offer to China.
Following the invitation, the Chinese government chose China Telecom Corp Ltd to invest in the Philippines. Foreign companies in the Philippines are limited to owning 40 percent of domestic telecoms operations.
Among domestic firms, internet provider Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp (PT&T) has expressed interest in applying for a mobile telecommunications license. Last month it told Reuters it was talking to China Telecom and Datang Telecom Technology Co Ltd about strategic partnerships.
“Urgency and political will on the part of the government is, as Mr. Zamora likes to put it, ‘a godsend’, as it aligns with our own ambitions to grow the scope of PT&T’s operations”, PT&T Chief Operating Officer Miguel Bitanga told Reuters on Tuesday, referring to Chairman Salvador Zamora.
Globe and PLDT have previously welcomed the possibility of new entrants.
Reiterating comments in a statement about new competition issued on Monday, Globe on Tuesday told Reuters it was “ready to compete in view of another telco player, especially if this would pave the way for more active participation in developing the industry.”
A PLDT spokesman declined to comment.
Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Christopher Cushing