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Malacanang should certify Lifetime Cellphone Number Act as urgent

MALOLOS CITY, Philippines – While speaking on her cellphone, a graduating student calls out someone in the crowd while waiting for the commencement exercise of their batch in Bulacan State University, June 2017 file image. Senate committee on economic affairs chair Senator Win Gatchalian is calling on Malacañang to certify his Lifetime Cellphone Number bill in anticipation of the third telco player in the country. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

In light of the possible entry of a new telco player next year, Senator Win Gatchalian is calling on Malacanang to certify as urgent the bill that would allow users to “easily transfer network providers without changing their preferred mobile numbers”.

Gatchalian is the principal author of the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act (Senate Bill 1636), a substitute bill to his earlier version Senate Bill 1237. Under this measure, mobile subscribers are given the preference to move to other network providers while retaining their existing mobile numbers.

“This would actually reinforce government’s campaign to break the existing duopoly in the telco industry.  Kung tunay ngang prayoridad ng pamahalaan na maayos ang telco sa bansa, isa ito sa unang dapat sertipikahan ng ating Pangulo, (If it’s really the government’s priority to fix the telecommunications industry in the country, the President would need to certify this bill first.)” he explained.

“We need to understand that the problem should be approached on both ends. On the one hand, you open the field and encourage participation from other players. On the other, you give your consumers the flexibility on which service they want without losing their digital identity,” he added.

China Telecoms has been endorsed by the Chinese government to invest in the Philippine’s multi-billion telecommunications industry during the bilateral talks President Rodrigo Duterte had with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month.

Malacanang has announced that it is directing the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to expedite the approval of necessary licenses and permits within seven days upon receipt or completion of requirements.  President Duterte gave a directive to make the third player operational for local competition within the first three months of 2018.

“The third player is a great welcome. Pag dumami ang players, mas darami ang serbisyo. Bababa ang presyo, at sisigla ang kompetisyon. Panalo tayong mga konsyumer doon” (If we have more players, more services will be added. Prices will be lower and competition shall be healthier. It will be to our best advantage as consumers.), the senator added.

He explained that through the measure, telecommunication carriers will be compelled to offer better deals as a result of shifting network preferences. This will give consumers the freedom to choose what they truly need.

The senator added that similar pieces of legislation were adopted in more than 100 countries across the globe.