Espinoza: Shape up, or else?

Elias L. Espinoza
·3 min read

THE 5th State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday afternoon, with less grandiosity, was said to be the longest. Most of those who watched and listened President Duterte's address on TV or radio sets expected him to talk much on the government's campaign against the coronavirus pandemic.

They were not frustrated though because what was highlighted in media's report on the President's Sona was his stern warning to the nation's telecommunication companies, Smart Communications, Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), and Globe Telecom, to improve their services, or else they have until December this year.

The poor telecommunication and digital services of PLDT, Smart and Globe were given emphasis in President Duterte's Sona because of his decision to go on online classes in all levels of schools after he took back his approval of the face-to-faces classes in low or no risk to Covid-19 places in the country until the vaccine is available.

Instead of the face-to-face learning or the usual classes in the classrooms, the Department of Education on the decision of President Duterte will implement the multiple learning delivery modalities, including online distance learning platforms, which could only be achieved if the services offered by the telecommunication companies are very efficient.

In jest, which he usually does, the President said, "Smart, pati itong Globe, ilang taon na ito? Ang sagot palagi sa akin, 'the party cannot be reached.' Eh, saan pala pumunta 'yung 'y..a' na 'yon? The answer that I usually get is 'the party cannot be reached. So where did that damn thing go." I think everyone with a cellphone would agree with me that the President said had experienced it.

"Alam mo, itong mga nagbibigay ng public services, you better improve. Huwag na man ninyo kaming pahintayin ng sampung taon bago kami makakamit ng mga services that the other countries are enjoying," Duterte said.

President Duterte asked the owners and management of the current telcos to improve their services by putting in more capital or infuse more investors. Look for them, he said. Otherwise, he would close all of them and revert to the line telephone and expropriate their frequencies in favor of the government. And, if reverted, where would it go?

Smart, PLDT, and Globe should not think twice. They have until December 2020 or about five months from now to improve their services. They should remember that when President Duterte makes the promise, he'll fulfill it and the next elections, if ever there will be one, are still in May 2022. The non-renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN is too recent to be ignored.

The third telco, Dito Telecommunity Corp. (formerly Mislatel), a joint venture of Davao City businessman Dennis Uy's Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. and China Telemcommunications Corp., will surely benefit if the Globe, Smart and PLDT would not act fast. Dito's infrastructure is allegedly delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Assuming things would go wrong or it go with the wishes of the President, then we would revert to square one when there is only one telco, like PLDT years ago, to provide the telecommunications and digital services to the public and businesses that now mostly rely on these platforms.

We hate monopoly. So, why allow this to happen when Globe, Smart and PLDT, considered homegrown companies, can provide the public and businesses better and faster telecommunication and digital services. The more service providers, the better for the consumers. Dito should have been operational now so that the present telcos would shape up. No! Of course, not ship out.