Duterte cracks whip at telco, water firms

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    Duterte cracks the whip at big business. (Photo from the OP)

    The business community viewed President Duterte’s swipe at alleged oligarchs in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) as his way of making big business toe the line.

    “The President is using his very effective tactic (of cracking the) whip (on) the (water) concessionaires. He has a solution to solve telecommunication issues by getting back the frequencies and giving them to someone who can solve the problem,” said Francis Chua, chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

    In his SONA, Duterte gave Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc. before December to improve their services or he will close them down.

    Chua, who is also director for international affairs of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Duterte has been very consistent in complaining about expensive water rates and poor service provided by water concessionaires.

    For Chua, those statements only mean the President acknowledges “the problems and inefficiencies” in some sectors while “providing solutions to address each and every problem.”

    Duterte referred to the Lopezes of ABS-CBN as oligarchs and described himself as a casualty of the company .

    “Great wealth enables economic elites and corporations to influence public policy to their advantage,” said Duterte.

    Congress has denied the network a franchise.

    Globe, ABS-CBN statements

    Globe said it heeds the President’s call to improve telco services, noting that service performance and increased consumer demand for data are the key reasons “why we have been investing billions of dollars to upgrade and improve our network.”

    This year, Globe said it has earmarked $1.2 billion in capital expenditures but cited challenges in its operations: long drawn permitting process across local governments, homeowners associations and national agencies that have hampered cellsite builds and laying down of fiber to homes.

    ABS-CBN meanwhile said it is offering the use of its transmission network and educatonal programs to help government educate students.

    “We are also offering the use of all the educational programs we have produced over the past 20 years,” the company said.

    Smart and water concessionaires Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. did not give any comment.

    Wide-ranging issues Chua said the SONA tackled wide-ranging issues – from sports, education, housing, heath care, telecommunication, transportation, infrastructure, social problems like crime, corruption, illegal drugs, among others.

    The reimposition of capital punishment by lethal injection, Chua said, is a bold move.

    Chua and Sergio Ortiz-Luis, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc., said the SONA’s focus on micro, small and medium enterprises by giving rent reprieves and zero interest loans, the call to pass the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act bill which will reduce tax rates and grant incentives will help revive the economy.

    But Ortiz-Luis was hoping Duterte pushed the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy bill which will be a big help to business during this recovery period.

    Raul Montemayor, national manager of the Federation of Free Farmers, said the issues raised on agriculture have been mentioned in his previous SONAs but are yet to “materialize.”

    “Plant, Plant, Plant is just another glorified name for traditional production programs. So nothing really new and no reason to expect anything significant. He was also not able to explain the link between domestic production and food security for consumers and how conflicting concerns could be balanced,” Montemayor said.

    He said another replayed issue is the use of the coco levy fund but the President himself vetoed the Coco Levy bill in the last Congress. (I. Isip, J. Macapagal and M. Iglesias)