Answer concerns on DITO audit, NTC urged

SEN. Ana Theresia Hontiveros said the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) should answer the concerns raised by an IT advocacy group regarding its “defective” technical audit of DITO-ChinaTel.

DITO Telecommunity is 40 percent owned by Beijing-run China Telecom.

During the Senate hybrid hearing on Wednesday on the renewal of DITO’s franchise, the Democracy.Net.Ph said the NTC allowed the sampling of a limited number of barangay to determine if the telco met its first year commitment to the government.

DITO claimed that in its first year of rollout, it surpassed the 37.03 percent population coverage that it promised under its franchise. It was able to achieve 37.48 percent based on the accomplishment report it submiited to the NTC.

According to Democracy.Net.Ph co-founder Pierre Galla, instead of testing more than 8,800 villages meant to prove that DITO met its first year promise to cover 37 percent of the Philippine population, the NTC allowed the sampling of only 2,671 villages. He said the field tests also covered 200 cell sites out of DITO’s 1,602 active sites.

The Senate Committee on Public Services, headed by Sen. Mary Grace Poe, approved the renewal of DITO’s franchise for another 25 years. However, Democracy.Net.Ph claimed that NTC’s first network audit conducted in February 2021 was defective.

“If the agency will not be able to do so, it will only add to the public’s suspicion that it may be at the behest of the China-backed third telco,” Hontiveros said. She said that there are more questions that need to be answered.

“Has undue partiality really been shown to DITO during both the bidding and the audit process? Under this administration, a declared ally of the Chinese regime, could DITO have lost the bidding and is there really a chance it will not pass this audit?” she asked.

Poe earlier said DITO was granted the third player status because it was evaluated as capable of competing with the two other major players. It began its commercial rollout on Monday, March 8, in 15 areas in the Visayas and Mindanao. It expects to be available nationwide by mid-2021.

The public services panel also approved the application and renewal of the franchise of two other telcos and the license of 13 broadcast firms mostly in the provinces.

The committee will soon present its recommendation to the plenary.