DITO Telecommunity, the plucky telecom provider brought up by Congress as the third player to break up the duopoly between PLTD-Smart Communications and Globe Telecom, officially launched its commercial operations in the country last March 8, initially covering key areas in the Visayas and Mindanao. But the company that became DITO has already been in existence since 1998, its franchise established by Congress at that time as Mislatel. Since franchises like these are effective for 25 years, the franchise for the company now known as DITO will expire next year in 2022. Fortunately, current Congress is acting to remedy that.
And as CNN Philippines would have it, the Senate this Wednesday has passed a bill granting a new 25-year franchise to operate for DITO Telecommunity, the existing franchise of which has only until next year to remain in effect. In a vote of 17-2-1, the Senators present this March 24 approved House Bill No. 7332, which lays out the third telco’s new franchise as well as the various conditions it must fulfill to both keep the franchise and avoid monetary penalties for any operational missteps. This is good news for the company which launched commercial operations early this month in Vis-Min, before hitting Luzon and Metro Manila later this year.
Part and parcel of DITO’s new franchise are requirements involving company stocks as well as percentage of employment status. First, the telecom provider must offer a minimum of 30% of its common stocks to Filipino citizens interested in being stockholders. With regards to employment, House Bill No. 7332 states that DITO’s contractual workers must not exceed 40% of its workforce, while its number of regularized employees must never fall under 60% of the same. Finally, it must submit annual reports to Congress to prove its compliance to the above, or face a fine of P1 million daily until they do.
In the one year since DITO was empowered by Congress to be the third major telco, the company has erected 2,360 cell towers across the country, though only the Visayas and Mindanao towers are active at present. Some of these towers are standing in facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, prompting concerns that DITO’s 40% owner, state-owned China Telecom, might be compelled by the Communist government to provide information gleaned from communication traffic, tantamount to spying on the Philippines. The military however believes there is low risk of intelligence leakage regarding DITO’s towers.
Image from Daily Tribune