House OKs on third reading bill granting franchise to DITO telco

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 24) - The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill granting a 25-year franchise to the DITO Telecommunity Corporation, the country’s third major telco player.

Lawmakers voted 240-7 in approving House Bill 7332 which extends the franchise of DITO for another 25 years after its current franchise expires on April 24, 2023.

Formerly known as the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, President Rodrigo Duterte formally granted DITO a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity last year to pave the way for its operation.

Duterte challenged DITO, owned by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp. and China Telecom, to break the existing duopoly of Smart Telecommunications and Globe Telecom.

In his last SONA, the President even threatened to shut down the operations of the two firms if they failed to improve their services by the end of the year.

House Bill 7332 requires DITO to offer at least 30-percent of its outstanding stocks to Filipino citizens. It also mandates the company to submit an annual report to Congress about its compliance to the terms of its franchise. Failure to do so will result in a P1-million fine for each day it fails to submit a report.

Under the measure, the President is allowed to temporarily take over and operate the company’s facilities in the interest of public safety, security, and welfare. Hence, any government agency could temporarily use the facilities in times of war, rebellion, calamity, or emergency.

DITO is expected to start its commercial services in March 2021.