Press Release
March 20, 2018

Sen. Grace Poe's Sponsorship Speech
On Senate Bill 1755 or An Act Strengthening the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC)

20 March 2018

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, and guests, magandang hapon po.

As Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, I rise to sponsor Committee Report No. 302, which recommends the approval of Senate Bill No. 1755 or An Act Strengthening the Powers of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 7925, taking into consideration Senate Bill No. 68 filed by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto and House Bill No. 6558 introduced by Representatives Victor Yap, Dalipe, Santos-Recto, Violago,

This legislation will complement another legislation The Open Access Bill of the Committee on Science and Technology which I understand is also being circulated on the floor for sponsorships and approval.

The NTC was created by Executive Order No. 546 in 1979. The NTC was then under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The NTC is in-charge for the supervision, adjudication and control over all telecommunication services, including the regulation and development of the telecommunications industry. Meanwhile, Republic Act No. 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Act of the Philippines which was passed on February 20, 1995 provides the guidelines in regulating the country's telco industry.

The role of NTC is indispensable in this day of fast-paced technology. Filipinos thrive on staying connected with their loved ones. As information plays a crucial role in empowering citizens, Filipinos need real-time information to enable a well-informed populace.

There are an estimated 125 million mobile phone subscriptions--more than our country's population of 106 million. Further, according to UK-based web engine, Filipinos are the world's heaviest social media users with 67 million internet users in the country. Filipinos also spent an average of 3 hours and 57 minutes a day on social media sites.

Thus, NTC leads a gargantuan task of regulating the telco sector and ensuring efficient services.

Mr. President, this bill, once enacted, allows for NTC's regulatory latitude, as well as gives protection to the Commission, its Commissioner or Deputy Commissioners, Officers and Employees from frivolous lawsuits. We have introduced provisions that offer some form of protection to the entire Commission, in that they shall enjoy immunity from suit in the exercise of their powers and shall be indemnified for any and all liabilities, losses, claims, demands, damages, deficiencies, costs and expenses of whatsoever kind and nature that may arise in connection with the performance of their duties.

This is quite important considering that during our discussions on this particular measure, the internet organization shared that in 2015, then NTC Director Edgardo Cabarios (now Deputy Commissioner) was threatened with lawsuits in relation to his alleged misleading statements about the controversial 700-megahertz frequency band. Cabarios had said he was just answering "questions from the media" and his statements were "based on facts."

Moreover, this measure, consistent with efforts to improve telco services in our country, mandates an annual review of available and unassigned spectrum to ensure wider access and a more equitable sharing of these resources and ultimately, provide better broadband and data services to consumers.

In the spirit of transparency, all service providers shall also open their books of account to the NTC. Binibigyan din natin ng mandato ang NTC na patawan ng multa ang telcos na lalabas sa anumang probisyon ng batas na aabot sa P1 milyong piso (P1 million) kada araw o isa hanggang dalawang porsyento (1-2%) na multa kung ang telco ay may gross annual income na P10 milyong piso (P10 million).

Mr. President, umaasa tayo na kapag agarang naipasa itong panukalang batas na ito, magkakaroon ng mas malakas na kapangyarihan ang NTC na hikayatin at mag-demand ng mas magandang serbisyo mula sa telcos. Sa dami ng mobile prepaid at postpaid subscribers at internet users sa ating bansa, hindi na pupwede ang basta-bastang serbisyo dahil kada bayad sa pagtext, pagtawag at pag-browse sa Facebook ay may kaakibat na maayos na serbisyo para sa ating mga kababayan.

Marami salamat po.

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