Philippines telecoms official quits in dispute over $5.4bn m

Philippines telecoms official quits in dispute over $5.4bn mobile operator

04 February 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The official who led the move to select a third mobile operator for the Philippines has resigned from government.

Eliseo Rio, the under-secretary at the country’s Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) suggested that disagreements with the minister were behind his resignation.

The resignation came days after the DICT minister, Gregorio Honasan (pictured left), met the senior executives at Udenna, the Filipino company that won the licence to operate DITO, the third network, in partnership with China Telecom – including DITO’s CEO, Dennis Uy (pictured right)

The company, which will invest $5.4 billion, will compete with existing licensees Globe Telecom and PLDT, which owns Smart mobile.

DITO is due to start operating in July 2020, executives from Udenna told Honasan. “Based on our discussions, I am satisfied that given the updates by the three top executives, DITO is on its way to deliver on its promise of cheaper and more efficient service to the subscribing public,” Honasan said, according to the DICT.

DITO chief administrative officer Adel Tamano told Honasan: “As we have been assuring the public, we are on track to meet our year-one commitment to the government and to the Filipino people to provide world-class telecommunications services.”

Rio, a retired general who was overtaken by Honasan at the top of DICT, said that Honasan knew “there are some few people that could not work together with”, so he decided to give the minister “free hand without any interfering from my part”.

Rio, an electronics and communications engineer before he joined the army and then moved into government, led the bidding process in 2018 that ended with the selection of Udenna and China Telecom.

In 2018 Rio said: “The government … will invest in telecommunication infrastructure that will be available to all players, big or small. These include a nationwide fibre optic cable backbone, cable landing stations, common towers and last mile facilities specially in underserved and unserved areas.”

The selection of a third operator started in 2017 when Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, met China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, in Manila. Duterte said that the country should have a third mobile operator and that it should be led by a Chinese company.