President Duterte’s campaign promise to end the PLDT-Globe telecom duopoly is coming to fruition. Often pouring scorn on the incumbent players for poor service while railing at the oligarchs that controlled them, Duterte even went as far as to threaten PLDT with a shut down.
Winner: Dennis Uy and China Telecom
In July 2019, Dito Telecommunity, a reincarnation of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. (Mislatel) with the backing of China Telecom, was awarded a license to become the third major telco. One of the major stakeholders in Dito is Udenna Corporation and Chelsea Logistics, whose founder Dennis Uy is a close associate and campaign donor to Duterte.
China Telecom’s involvement in Dito has raised concerns, in a similar thread to Huawei, that it could compromise Philippines’ national security. Especially since Philippines is currently embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea.
Loser: ABS-CBN and the Lopez Family
Duterte accused the nation’s largest broadcaster of “swindling” for not airing his political advertisement that was already paid for during his campaign. This is among multiple grievances including unfair coverage of his policies, such as his war on drugs.
After 13 congressional hearings, House of the Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises denied ABS-CBN’s application for a renewal of their franchise with 70 votes out of the 83. Among the many grounds of the decision included labour violations, infringement of foreign ownership rules, political meddling and tax avoidance.
Controlled by the influential Lopez family, ABS-CBN was briefly shut during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. The denial of a renewal franchise has sparked criticism that this infringed on the freedom of the press, reminiscent of the time under martial law. On the other end of the spectrum, supporters of this move see this a fulfilment of Duterte’s pledge to “dismantle” the oligarchy.
Loser: PLDT and Globe and backers
In response to the new entrant expected in March 2021, the incumbents PLDT and Globe have ramped up network rollout in mobile and fibre broadband.
Besides Dito Telecommunity, a fixed broadband player Converge ICT Solutions Inc is also making inroads into the Philippines market after launching one of Philippines’ largest IPO. It is also reported in September 2020 that conglomerate Now Corp, under affiliate Now Telecom, has been awarded a license to operate a mobile network.
For the Pangilinan family behind PLDT and the Zobel family behind Globe through Ayala Corporation, the more competitive landscape means the end to easy money from their telecommunication holdings. Singtel, which owns a 47% stake in Globe, is already under pressure with holdings in Singapore and India (Bharti Airtel), where they are squaring off with another set of new entrants.