NTC to issue provisional authority to ABS-CBN pending franchise renewal bid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 10) – The National Telecommunications Commission has agreed to issue a provisional authority to allow broadcast giant ABS-CBN to operate pending the renewal of its franchise.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba made the announcement Tuesday during the hearing of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises led by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez.

Cordoba said this decision was based on the latest advice of the Department of Justice to let the media network operate based on "equity."

"A more stable legal environment could be created...to authorize NTC to issue provisional authority to this broadcasting company, under such terms and conditions as it may deem necessary until Congress' final disposition of the franchise renewal bill," Cordoba said.

"The NTC will folow the advice of the DOJ and let ABS-CBN continue their operations based on equity," he added.

This is the first time that the House has formally held a hearing on the media network's bid to get another 25-year franchise, ahead of its supposed expiry on May 4.

During the hearing, the House committee adopted the letter sent by Alvarez and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to the NTC urging the commission to grant the network a provisional permit.

Cayetano said NTC's response was its "polite" way of following the House order.

House squabble delays delibs

Cayetano added that the hearing was a "success," even if the first 40 minutes of the one-hour deliberation was spent on the drafting of ground rules.

Congressmen first argued whether sponsorship speeches, as proposed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, should be heard before officially starting.

Afterwards, they debated whether they should agree to House Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel's motion that those who were against the franchise renewal should talk first.

"Medyo emosyonal po ang ating ibang mga kasama kaya the committee found it prudent na magdagdag po tayo ng additional rules para maganda ang sistema ng ating hearing," said Alvarez.

[Translation: Some of our colleagues here are a little emotional, so the committee found it prudent to lay down additional rules so that we have an organized system in the hearing.]

A total of 11 bills were supposed to be up for deliberation on Tuesday, three days before the House goes on a Holy Week break. Cayetano noted that they will not immediately reject these measures even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida a month ago.

READ: Supreme Court pushes back talks on ABS-CBN case to April

Only three officers of the NTC were present in the hearing. ABS-CBN executives were not invited, but Alvarez noted that they will be invited by the panel to the next deliberation.

Stakeholders were asked to submit their position papers by April 15 so they can be tackled during the resumption of the hearing.

Cayetano previously admitted that they were not in a hurry to hear the broadcast giant's franchise application, as they were considering "more urgent" priorities that needed to be tackled in the lower chamber.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.