\n<b>MANILA, Philippines -<\/b> smart Communications, Inc. is doing away with middlemen in its electronic loading (e-Load) business supposedly to make the system more efficient and transparent.<br rn\/><br rn\/>The mobile phone giant wants e-Load dealers to act as its sales agents and distribution coordinators under an exclusive contract.<br rn\/><br rn\/>The dealers, who will be replaced by distributors assigned to serve well defined territories, are protesting, saying the new system would rob them of their livelihoods.<br rn\/><br rn\/>"By the end of November, we have been informed that Smart will end its business partnerships with theses dealers after depending on them to lay down the network of hundreds of e-Load retailers from the start," the Telco Entrepreneurs Association (TEA) said in a statement Monday.<br rn\/><br rn\/>The group, formed last month to oppose the Smart plan to cut them off, is composed of around 3,000 e-Load dealers who buy prepaid mobile phone credits by bulk from Smart business centers nationwide. Dealers get the credits at a 5% discount and sell these to retailers \u2014 usually mom-and-pop stores \u2014 at a slightly higher price but still below the rate for subscribers.<br rn\/><br rn\/>Under the new system, the dealers will no longer be recognized, and will be replaced by distributors who will sell credits in defined geographical areas, which Smart said is a way to avoid overlapping territories that lead to inefficiency.<br rn\/><br rn\/>The dealers\u2019 group said the new system would leave around 50,000 dealers who depend on Smart e-Load sales for their income.<br rn\/><br rn\/>"We also appeal to Smart to uphold corporate social responsibility and include these dealers who have helped them in their business since 2002," Anthony Ian Cruz, president of telecommunications consumer group TXTPower, said in a statement.<br rn\/><br rn\/>Smart denied that the new setup was a cost-cutting measure in response to slowing demand brought about by the slowing economy.<br rn\/><br rn\/>It also said it was not abandoning the dealers, adding that it would give them a chance to become part of the new system.<br rn\/><br rn\/>"We are making our distribution system more efficient and transparent," Smart Spokesman Ramon R. Isberto said in an interview Monday.<br rn\/><br rn\/>He said Smart has been trying to contact these dealers to give them a chance to become part of the system. Some dealers, he said, have agreed to work for Smart as sales agents or distribution coordinators.<br rn\/><br rn\/>"The new setup is geographically defined. That makes it more orderly," he added. Mr. Isberto urged dealers to go to Smart, which will advise them how they can take advantage of the new system.<br rn\/><br rn\/>But TXTPower and the dealers\u2019 group said agreeing to Smart\u2019s terms would mean becoming exclusive vendors of Smart e-Load, which will cut their incomes by as much as 50%.<br rn\/><br rn\/>"Most of us have already quit our former jobs just to be dealers," TEA President Robert M. Galon said. "Effectively, what they are saying is that \u2019we are officially ignoring you,\u2019" he added. Mr. Galon said a dealer can make around P30,000 a month by selling load from the Smart and rivals Globe and Sun Cellular.<br rn\/><br rn\/>"That is a choice they have to make if they want to align themselves to the new system," Mr. Isberto said. "If they want to be part of the system, they have to abide by our rules. This is a business decision. The main objective here is to make every part of the distribution chain profitable," he added.<br rn\/><br rn\/>Smart Communications, together with its sister brand Talk N\u2019 Text, is the country\u2019s biggest telecommunications network with 34 million subscribers.<br rn\/><br rn\/>It is followed by the Ayala-led Globe Telecom, Inc. with around 23 million subscribers and the Gokongwei-owned Sun Cellular, which has around seven million subscribers.