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TMCNet:  NTC cannot punish telcos [The Manila Times, Philippines]

[November 23, 2012]

NTC cannot punish telcos [The Manila Times, Philippines]

(Manila Times (Phillipines) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 24--THE National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said on Friday that they don't have the "contempt power" against telecommunication companies, which makes the agency powerless in forcing the country's telcos to lower their text messaging rates.



"To regulate meron [we have]," Dennis Babaran, NTC legal director, told The Manila Times.

"Hindi ganun kalakas ang NTC kaya [The NTC is not that powerful that's why] we do not have the authority to cite them in contempt. It should be the Congress or the Senate," he added.

The country's telecommunication giants said earlier that they would seek legal remedies on the NTC decision ordering them to immediately refund or reimburse their subscribers the excess charge of 20 centavos per short messaging service (SMS) and reduce the cost of text messaging from P1 to 80 centavos.

The NTC decision was issued on Monday.

"They are not prevented from filing the proper remedy," Babaran said.

Earlier reports said that the Senate and Malacanang had urged the telcos to comply with the order of the NTC to refund overcharged text fees to subscribers.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. pressed the telcos to heed the order of the NTC, or to immediately refund the 20 centavos overcharged fees to subscribers. Otherwise, they risk having their franchise revoked.

Enrile and Revilla said that telcos should not dilly-dally in complying with the NTC's directive if they still want to be patronized by consumers.

The telcos had said that they are doing a lot of promos to lower their SMS rates, which is a way of abiding with NTC's directive to lower their texting rates.

But the NTC sees it in a different way, and the telcos seem ready to fight.

"Iba kasi ang promo [a promo is different], that's temporary basis. You can withdraw it any time, promos will last up to three to six months," Babaran said.

Telcos to take legal action Meanwhile, lawyer Froilan Castelo, head of the corporate and legal affairs group of Globe Telecom Inc. said that "since the very beginning of the case, we have clearly stated that SMS is a deregulated service and telcos have the right to set the retail price of this service. In fact, this has worked for the benefit of the consumer because the prices have gone down drastically with the advent of customization, bucket and combo promos and unlimited services." "There is no provision in the NTC Circular, which imposes a ceiling price of 80 centavos per SMS sent.

There are other various legal grounds by which we base our opposition. In this regard, Globe shall avail of all legal remedies to preserve its right to determine the pricing of its services," he added.

Meanwhile, Ramon Isberto, head of public affairs of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and Smart Communication Inc., said in a text message that, "that's a possibility [file case in the court].

But we intend to follow the proper processes and seek a reconsideration with the Commission." The Commission said that telcos always file cases in court every time they oppose an NTC order.

"Yes that's [what] they always do naman e, lahat naman ng kaso na di pabor sa kanila inaakyat nila sa korte [All legal matters not favorable to the, they elevate to the courts]," Babaran said.

Republic Act No. 7925 Article 3, Section 5 of Republic Act 7925 or an Act to Promote and Govern the Development of the Philippine Telecommunications and the Delivery of Public Telecommunications Services, states that the, "National Telecommunications Commission shall be the principal administrator of this Act and as such shall take the necessary measures to implement the policies and objectives set forth in this Act." It also states that the NTC shall: a) Adopt an administrative process, which would facilitate the entry of qualified service providers and adopt a pricing policy, which would generate sufficient returns to encourage them to provide basic telecommunications services in unserved and underserved areas; b) Ensure quality, safety, reliability, security, compatibility and inter-operability of telecommunications facilities and services in conformity with standards and specifications set by international radio and telecommunications organizations to which the Philippines is a signatory; c) Mandate a fair and reasonable interconnection of facilities of authorized public network operators and other providers of telecommunications services through appropriate modalities of interconnection and at a reasonable and fair level of charges which make provision for the cross subsidy to unprofitable local exchange service areas so as to promote telephone density and provide the most extensive access to basic telecommunications services available at affordable rates to the public; etc . . .

Besides ordering the lowering of text messaging rates and refunding consumers for excess charges, the commission also said that it will find telcos P200 a day from December 1, 2011 until the date of compliance.

"It's the old law public service 1936 [P200 per day fine to the telcos], that's why you have to recommend the amendments of the law," Babaran said.

___ (c)2012 The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines) Visit The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines) at www.manilatimes.net Distributed by MCT Information Services

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