MANILA — Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Undersecretary Jacinto Paras, on Wednesday, 29 July 2020, appeared in ABS-CBN’s ANC to defend President Duterte’s warning on telecommunications companies “to improve” their services by December (2020) otherwise, they face closure.

President Duterte gave the stern warning to telcos during his fifth State of the Nation Address last Monday, 27 July 2020, wherein he threatened to “close” all telecommunication providers and “expropriate” them unless their services will improve by Christmas, December (2020).

In an interview with ANC HD, Paras explained that it is right thing to do for the President. His call on the telcos to provide better services is long overdue and a reminder that telco customers deserve better services.

“The December warning by the President giving a December (2020) deadline is in fact long overdue with due respect to these telcos. I have lots of friend there but it pains me to say this, that yes, it’s their obligation to provide “efficient and reliable service that is long overdue.”

Paras added that the telcos’ obligation to deliver efficient and reliable services is mandated under Republic Act 7925, or the Telecommunications Act of 1994.

“The President is right lalo na po dito sa time ng pandemic (Covid-19) where, because of the protocol of social distancing, people need a lot of telecommunications,” Paras said.

“It is just proper for the President to remind these (telcos) that the State have an obligation under Section 23 Article II of the Constitution to provide efficient telecommunications and this obligation has been delegated to these telcos upon “their grant of franchise and CPCN.”

The former labor undersecretary and Negros Oriental 1st district representative also debunked the insinuation that red tape seems to be the cause of delay of delivery of efficient services from the existing telecommunications providers.

“Di po tototo yang red tape na ‘yan, the fact that they were able to set up a lot of cell sites means, they were able to get permits and licenses, and since they were doing these for years, they have perfected the process. In fact, the government has even passed anti-red tape law, and later, the ease of doing business, so local governments are bound not to delay the issuance of permits. It seemed alibi lang ‘yan ng mga telcos. The real reason is that, In spite of raking in so much revenues from their customers, as their subscriber base has already reached millions, they did not spend these revenues by plowing these back in terms of improving the quality of service such as building more cell sites and making the speed of internet faster. In fact, it is said that we are the lowest in South East Asia in the speed of internet. Dapat gumawa sila ng paraan,” Paras said.

Telcos he said have so much revenues from text messages alone, but instead of putting back the money to telecoms “they diverted these to other businesses such as roads and highways construction, hospitals and power, Paras added.

“The President is not unreasonable. His act of reminding the telcos to shape up is his obligation as the head of the government. He is mandated to do that by the Constitution and the law.  Lalo na ngayon, in the advent of this pandemic where virtual communication is the means to reach out to people such as Zoom, Facebook or google (teleconference and live streaming app). How could we communicate efficiently and clearly kung failure yung internet, di putol-putol ang conversation natin. Di tayo magka-intindihan. The President realized there is a need for it now,” Paras said.

“Let’s not blame the President for doing his job. Let’s not begrudge him for looking into the welfare of our people,” Paras stressed.

It was also gathered that the internet system of the country is one the slowest in Southeast Asia.

Paras also dismissed insinuations President Duterte’s threat is nothing but a shakedown to make way for the third telco, DITO Telecommunications, whose owner Dennis Uy is a good friend of the Chief Executive.

“I’m sure the NTC knows its job. If DITO fails their deadline to roll out, I’m sure NTC will exercise their powers to regulate, otherwise, Cong Remulla and Cong Marcoleta will raise hell against the NTC,” he said.

“The President in his fifth SONA has urged PLDT (Smart) and Globe Telecom to improve their services and that warning of the President for sure is also addressed to the third telecommunications player DITO Telecoms which Committed to delivering up to 27 Mbps or “near-Singapore” internet speed. To do that, it has committed 1,300 towers in its first year. This is something that the NTC should monitor,” Paras stressed. (ia/SPH)