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THERE were hopes that Internet speed in the Philippines – the slowest in Southeast Asia and one of the slowest in all of Asia – would speed up with the acquisition of additional spectrums by the Philippine Long Distance Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom, who run the two principal systems Smart and Globe. This was in May and the two systems immediately began to expand their services using the new frequency – 700 megahertz – they had jointly purchased from San Miguel Corp. (SMC)
All this, however, has now been stopped by the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) which called for an investigation of the acquisition of the 700-mghz spectrum by PLDT and Globe from SMC for p69.1 billion, although the deal had already been approved by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). PLDT and Globe have filed a petition with the Court of Appeals to stop the PCC move to block the deal.
The case is now before the court which, we hope, will act quickly and decisively on this legal issue of whether the PCC can block a transaction that is already deemed approved under the PCC’s own rules. The PCC is out to investigate the R69.1-billion deal which it evidently sees as an anti-competitive agreement, one that limits, prevents, or restricts competition.
Right now, it is difficult to see that point as the SMC, which might have provided competition to the two established systems, chose instead to sell its valued 700 megahertz for R69.1 billion and expand in other areas of its wide-ranging business. Perhaps if SMC had chosen to operate the valued spectrum itself and was blocked by the NTC, it would have had reason to go to the PCC and claim a violation of the Philippine Competition Act, Republic Act 10667.
Instead it decided to dispose of its long underutilized spectrum and move on to its other businesses.
The PCA action now looks very much like those of some government agencies holding back business operations, the kind that President Duterte vowed to stop when, in his inaugural address, he ordered “all department secretaries and heads of agencies to refrain from changing and bending rules of government contracts, transactions, and projects already approved and awaiting implementation.”
This issue is of great interest to all who now use the Internet extensively in their businesses and in their daily activities. The improvement of services was well underway when stopped by the PCC action. The sooner it is resolved, the better for all concerned.