The country will open up its telecommunications sector not only to Chinese companies but also to other foreign investors, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said Saturday.
“The best offer would be picked from other offers as well,” Pernia told reporters at the sidelines of the 2017 Philippine Association for Chinese Studies Conference in Pasig City, when asked if only Chinese firms would be considered by the government.
“China is on the frontline now because no other country has sounded out or expressed interest to come in,” he added.
Pernia confirmed that China’s top telecommunications companies were interested to enter the Philippine market.
China’s telecom market is served by three state-run operators, namely China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom and China Unicom.
During his bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month, President Rodrigo Duterte offered China the privilege to operate as the third telecom carrier in the country.
Duterte has long been calling for a third telco player in the Philippines so that consumers could enjoy better mobile and internet services.
PLDT and Globe Telecom enjoy a duopoly after plans by San Miguel Corp. to launch a third telco fell through. San Miguel sold its telecommunications assets to the two giants last year.
According to Pernia, Duterte’s order for government agencies to act swiftly to ease foreign investment limits was a first step toward opening up the telecommunications sector.
“There’s a lot of urgency to this,” he said, adding that better connectivity was a promise Duterte made during his election campaign.
“The telco will be taken out of the so-called ‘public service.’ There’s already a bill in Congress that’s quite advanced on that, the redefinition of public service. That bill has been declared urgent by the President. That should pass fairly quickly,” he said.
Pernia also said the government was looking at other sectors that could be liberalized without legislation.
“We’re having them reviewed by our lawyers, which ones are implementable without legislation and which ones have to be legislated,” Pernia said.
“Once those items are liberalized, maybe the next consideration will be power costs and infrastructure. At least, we will be able to take out one obstacle already by liberalizing those areas where foreign ownership was restricted,” he added.