Duterte wants to open telco, energy sectors to new players

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte came home early Thursday morning with a lot of lessons from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in Peru.

Among these lessons are measures that could speed up the country's communication systems and lower power costs.

For the President, the country will only be able to compete in the global market if these are achieved.

"The only way to make this country more faster to benefit the poor is really to open up communications, the airwaves and the entire energy sector," Duterte said in his arrival speech. "My decision now is, this moment is, bubuksan ko ang Pilipinas [I will open the Philippines]."

The President said they are now looking at "regulatory requirements" and "institutional arrangements" to hasten the entry of new players in the power and energy sectors.

More players would increase competition, which would then lead to lower costs for consumers. But the President said he could still change his mind if local players drop prices.

"Kung i-dive niyo yang presyo ninyo, walang problema [If you dive your prices down, there's no problem]," he said. "I will forget my statement."

But until he sees costs lowered and services improved, Duterte's decision stands.

For the President, opening the telecommunications and energy sectors to other players is also a way to fight monopolization and corruption.

His pronouncement comes following his call for the resignation of top officials at the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). ERC Bids and Awards Committee Chairman Jun Villa, brother of veteran broadcaster Charie Villa, committed suicide allegedly because of pressures to rig government contracts.

Meanwhile, ERC Commissioner Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar said Tuesday he would like to meet the President to discuss the matter.

With the commissioners staying put, the President reiterated his call, this time with a warning.

"I demanded that they all resign," he said. "Ayaw ninyo, dali lang 'yan [If you don't want to leave, the solution is simple]. We will abolish the office. I will not grant any single centavo."

Republic Act No. 9136, otherwise known as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, created the ERC as a regulatory body to promote competition and penalize abuse of market power in the industry.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.