MANILA – It is up to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to decide on the proposal to use ABS-CBN Corp.’s television and radio frequencies to ensure effective distance learning amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang said Thursday.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said ABS-CBN’s former frequencies could now be awarded by the NTC.

Roque, however, said the Palace would let the NTC exercise its independence and make a decision on the embattled network’s former television and radio frequencies.

“Any frequency can be used for distance learning. So, it’s up to the NTC. If the NTC says so, we will respect that because it is a quasi-judicial body,” he said.

On Tuesday, House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte filed House Resolution 1044, proposing the government’s temporary use of ABS-CBN’s unused frequencies to deliver the alternative distance learning modes amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

In his resolution, Villafuerte explained that ABS-CBN’s former television and radio frequencies could be used as a “means to provide alternative distance learning modalities to students this coming school year to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the country’s education system.”

ABS-CBN, upon the directive of the NTC, was forced to halt its television and radio broadcast operations on May 5, a day after the expiration of its 25-year legislative franchise.

On June 30, the NTC also issued two cease and desist orders, directing ABS-CBN to stop the operation of its digital television transmission using Amcara Broadcasting Corp.’s Channel 433 and the direct-to-home satellite transmission of its cable firm, Sky Cable Corp.

ABS-CBN hoped for the renewal of its franchise but the House Committee on Legislative Franchises on July 10 rejected its bid for a fresh 25-year congressional franchise.

One-stop shop for retrenched workers

After the rejection of its franchise renewal bid before the House, ABS-CBN announced on Wednesday that it would cease the operations of its businesses and lay off workers beginning August 31.

ABS-CBN, however, did not give an exact figure of its employees who will be retrenched by the end of August.

In a virtual press briefing aired on state-run PTV-4, Roque said the Department of Labor and Employment has agreed to set up a “one-stop shop” for ABS-CBN employees who will be affected by the implementation of the network’s retrenchment program.

This developed after Roque’s phone conversation with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

“Tinawagan ko na po si Secretary Bello. Magkakaroon po siya ng one-stop shop center para makapag-apply din po ang mga mare-retrench na empleyado ng ABS-CBN (I called Secretary Bello. He said there would be a one-stop shop center to allow ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched to find new jobs),” he said.

Earlier, ABS-CBN said some 11,000 of its employees would lose their jobs due to the franchise denial. (PNA)