Mon. Sep 20th, 2021
President Duterte

THE telecom duopoly must be feeling the heat of the President’s hyperbole. He wants to speak with God in Bethlehem but all the answers he gets is ‘’ the number you are calling cannot be reached.”

The so-called “ber” months are just around the corner and soon it will be December.  The President will make that call again ergo he gave both Globe and Smart to improve their service or else…

President Rodrigo R. Duterte may sound absurd but be careful of what will happen next. He does not want to dish out expletives during his State of the Nation Address and so he speaks in a manner that sounds ridiculous and amusing but delivers a stinging rebuke.

Irate at the unwillingness of people to follow the simple directive to  (properly) wear a mask, social distancing, and washing or disinfection of hands with alcohol he blurted out saying you can use gasoline to disinfect. The anti-Duterte cabal had a fiesta lampooning the President who went to sleep smiling he made the opposition happy with their sarcasm. 

For Smart and Globe, the Duterte’s hyperbole means he knew they have been in the business for 30 years and all they can build are 18,000 towers against Vietnam’s 70,000. And the Philippines was very much ahead in the telecom business before that.

Up to now, these two major players thought that this probinsyano President lacks knowledge of what’s going on in the telecom industry. Well, this President knew that they have been remitting a substantial amount of their profits to their principals but for three decades failed to invest in the necessary telecom infrastructure.  

Duterte is not pleased the Philippines has the notoriety of having the poorest telecom service in Asia.

For the people who refuse to heed the simple protocols to curb COVID infection, that means we might go back to ECQ or MECQ to keep the bull-headed quarantined or locked down.  

Watching TV coverages would show us people having masks but are not wearing these properly. People are told to stay home if there is nothing important that would need their presence outside their residence. 

But we love to party, hold rallies because press freedom and democracy supposedly “died” when ABS CBN franchise was not renewed, followed by the passing of the anti-terrorism.

Thus, in one small UP barangay alone 118 contacted Covid.  

And here comes VP Leni Robredo asking her a handful of believers to regroup and revise the government strategy to address the rising statistics. 

Our health workers are having fatigue and they plead for a two-week break. President Duterte heard them, gathered his Cabinet, and decided Metro Manila will be on Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine.

A fresh package of assistance and incentives will be given to the frontline health workers. Meanwhile, the President pleaded to them to hang on as he responded to their appeal for a break. 

The telecom duopoly is trying to evade from the President’s order to shape up. Instead of responding to the President’s appeal to improve their service they went to media to say that government red tapes come in the way of their plan to set up telecom towers. 

Really? You want the public and Duterte to believe that because of red tapes, the duopoly can only set up 18,000 towers combined? Or is because you were raking in money from just having text messaging so why invest in towers when you are earning oodles of money anyway! 

Do not beguile Duterte and the public in a grand tomfoolery.  

This government might as well give a chance to other players. Allocate frequencies to others aside from the 3rd Telco. A fourth or fifth will not harm the government.

These new players can leap-frog to the latest technology and can come together for a common tower arrangement, a partnership that the duopoly abhors because it will diminish their profits. 

Whether or not we go back to normal or adapt to a new normal, the country needs an expanded and reliable telecom service as it migrates to new e-government. There will be no turning back in this one.

This would require commitment and a tremendous amount of capital yet there are a number of investors who are willing to partner with new players knowing for a fact that around 45% of the country lacks or has no viable telecom service at all. In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, it only needs community cooperation to curb the rate of infection: WEAR THAT MASK PROPERLY,  MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING, WASH OR DISINFECT HANDS, and stay home. 

Let’s say a word or two about his recent State of the Nation Address.

AFTER the sound of fury and the usual incendiary rhetorics and political analysis that came on the heels of President Duterte’s SONA here we back to facing the stark realities.

What do we expect from human slot machines and dye-in-the-wool anti- Duterte cabal who can really dish out in unrelenting staccato of issues stored in their memory cards of virtual garbage bins. What else is new? China and the Scarborough issue, press freedom, death penalty, and lack of coherent plan to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

My take? Duterte could have just done away with a prepared speech if the items he raised in the SONA were all there is to it. Here is why. He knows quite well what oligarchy is and who are the oligarchs in this country.

He knows the issues surrounding the Philippines conflict with China over the Scarborough. He could have just said that that it was as early as 2012 when then President Benigno Aquino III and Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario allowed China to stay in the island and ordered our navy to withdraw. By reading the speech he missed that vital event why China held on to that territory and that war cannot be an option.

Duterte expounded, even as he rambled through, on the immoral business practices of the oligarchs. And he was not mincing words when he mentioned the names of MWSS water concessionaires and the telecom duopoly. It was on the subject of the controversial water concession agreement that the name of Senator Franklin Drilon was mentioned because of his alleged involvement in drafting the contract. He even called him a hypocrite. But funny, in his repartee, Drilon explained that it is in the name of press freedom that he pushed for the renewal of ABS CBN franchise.

Well, Duterte did mention about Lopez, a media oligarch who had victimized him. The unfettered exercise of media empire in Philippine politics is of course legendary and for Duterte to survive the might of the network makes him a legend too.

Two significant performances deserved recognition. Finance Secretary and head of Economic Team, Sonny Dominguez, for piloting the economy and sustaining the credit rating of the country at investment grade and stable and therefore allows the country to borrow money at very low-interest rates and with a longer grace period.

The President skipped the litany of infrastructure performance which was actually reported by Secretary Dominguez and his team during a pre-SONA forum last week.

Senator Bong Go was specially mentioned for expanding the socialized health outreach program of the government with the establishments of close to 80 Malasakit Centers throughout the country. Senator Bong also got a pat on the shoulder for the successful ASEAN sports event. The Senator is Chairman of the Senate Health and Sports Committees.

The prepared speech was supposed to rein in the presidential temper, but he did come out with emotional outbursts. Addressing the Ayalas and Pangilinan who control the vital distribution of water and telecom industry, President Duterte gave the duo until December to improve their delivery of service.

I would interpret that to mean, Manila Water and Maynilad should sit down with government and amend or come up with a new concession agreement that would improve and sustain the supply of reasonably priced water to their consumers. It also gave a deadline to Globe and Smart telecom firms until December to raise the standard of quality of its telecommunications technology and service and to reach out to the remotest nooks and corners of the country.

The order for the telecom duopoly comes with a threat.

This simply underlines the importance of an efficient telecom system especially in the emerging exigencies of the time when government and private corporations are migrating to the digital platforms for e-governance, paperless transactions, distant learning, and work-from-home among others. It is noteworthy that Globe Telecom responded positively to the challenge and we expect that Smart is not far behind.

You can hate and call for the ouster of President Duterte but his temper delivers.

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