Former Iloilo representative and vice governor Rolex Suplico on Tuesday warned that Telstra and San Miguel Corp. may tap China’s ZTE Corp. when the joint venture wades into the Philippine telecommunications market.
Suplico was among those who filed an impeachment complaint against former President Gloria Arroyo in connection with the aborted $329 ZTE National Broadband Network (NBN) contract in 2007.
The former lawmaker said he received reports that Telstra and SMC will use ZTE to build its broadband network in the Philippines.
“While we welcome the entry of foreign investments in the country, we strongly recommend that these investors choose their partners wisely and refrain from associating with organizations of tainted and questionable integrity,” Suplico added.
He said that ZTE’s links to corruption in the Philippines should make regulators cautious about their possible involvement in building a broadband network in the country.
On April 21, 2007, the government signed a $329 million deal with ZTE Corp. The project, which called for the installation of a telecommunications network linking government offices throughout the country, was signed in China by then Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE vice President Yu Yong.
It was witnessed by Arroyo. ZTE initially offered $130 million for the project.
The deal was cancelled following claims of irregularities and bribery.
Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, a consultant in the NBN project, testified before the Senate that Arroyo and her husband were the “masterminds behind the NBN-ZTE crime.”
“ZTE has blood in its hands. Go slow on ZTE because it has a track record of corruption. Find another company who has proven its records,” Suplico said.
Suplico however admitted that there is an urgent need for a national broadband network in the Philippines.
“The government must do its part and invest in the infrastructure we need. Regulators should continue to look for other solutions to slow Internet, including a review of the optional allocation of limited frequencies,” he told reporters.
“Congress and the National Telecommunications Commission must study the SMC-Telstra deal well. There are many legalities and technicalities involved here aside from ZTE and San Miguel’s ownership structure, such as the possible need for congressional approval on Telstra’s entry, or review of frequency allocation among others,” he added.