MANILA, Philippines — The third player in the country’s telecommunication sector might not be operational within the first quarter, Malacañang said.
“We have a report from the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) that the entry of the third telecom player by the end of the first quarter may not be realized,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told radio station dzMM in Filipino last Sunday.
Pressed for details Monday, Roque said he would get updates during the next Cabinet meeting.
The entry of the third telco player was expected to be discussed during the 22nd Cabinet meeting in Malacañang Monday.
President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed agencies to ensure that there would be a third telco player by the end of March so that consumers can benefit from competition in the sector.
Officials have said the entry of a third player would lead to better and cheaper services.
Duterte invited China to invest in the Philippines’ telecom sector during a bilateral meeting between Duterte and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last November.
But Roque and some officials have issued contradicting statements about the third player.
Roque previously said the invitation to become the Philippines’ third player in the telco industry would be open to firms from other countries if the government and China Telecom fail to reach a deal.
He said the government would have to look for another company if China Telecom, the company chosen by the Chinese government, does not agree with the ownership limits provided by the Constitution.
Foreign companies have to form partnerships with local firms because the Constitution restricts foreign ownership of a public utility to 40 percent.
However, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar and DICT officials said in previous interviews that the invitation to become the Philippines’ third telco player is open to all interested parties and not just to China Telecom.
He said the company that would submit the best offer would be chosen as the third player.
Telecommunication firms from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have also expressed interest to become the third telco player in the Philippines.