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Mislatel consortium is skirting questions on lapsed franchise —think tank

Think tank Infrawatch PH on Saturday slammed anew the declared provisional third telco player Mislatel Consortium, alleging that it has been skirting questions on the lapsed franchise of its consortium partner — Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co.

“As yet, the provisional new major player has not given an acceptable, direct response to questions on whether or not Mislatel has a lapsed congressional franchise for failing to list in the stock market," Infrawatch PH convenor and former member of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises Terry Ridon said in a statement.

In its disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, consortium member Chelsea Logistics said that Mislatel is among the list of telecommunications entities with existing legislative franchises.

“We wish to clarify that prior to the selection process for the third telco, the NTC published a list of telecommunications entities with existing legislative franchises. Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, Inc (Mislatel) was included in the list,” Chelsea Logistics said.

"In addition, the NTC has accepted the validity of the Mislatel franchise when it vetted Mislatel’s documents during the NMP selection process," the company said.

On Wednesday, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) declared the Mislatel Consortium — composed of Dennis Uy's Udenna Corp., its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics, and foreign partner China Telecom — was declared as the provisional third telco

Ridon, however, countered Chelsea's clarification as the company did not refute the fact that Mislatel never listed in the PSE as required in its congressional franchise.

“Correspondingly, if Mislatel never listed in the stock market, its franchise law itself provides that Mislatel’s franchise will automatically be revoked," he said.

"If the NTC had proceeded with the selection of Mislatel despite the automatic revocation of the Mislatel franchise as per its own franchise law, we are certain that the NTC, including the DICT, will find themselves acting in grave abuse of discretion," he added.

Ridon said Mislatel should not blame the NTC if the agency mistakenly accepted their bid despite a supposed non-operational franchise.

“The consortium should have conducted 'comprehensive due diligence' to ensure that their bid is iron-clad and without weak spots," he said.

Ridon added that allowing the provisional third telco to proceed despite unanswered legal questions "bodes ill for the transparency and legitimacy of the entire process."

“We hope that NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba and DICT Sec. Eliseo Rio will be able to raise these concerns to the Mislatel consortium during the post-qualification stage. Anything less than an acceptable and direct response on why Mislatel has failed to list in the stock exchange should warrant their disqualification from the selection process.”

"Amid the developing controversies surrounding the bid of provisional NMP Mislatel consortium, we hope that the same high standards of transparency and professionalism exhibited by the DICT and NTC during the first phase of the bid will continue in the post-qualification phase of the Mislatel consortium," he said.

Ridon added he has utmost confidence in the integrity of both Rio and Cordoba that "they will do the right thing given the developing circumstances." —Ted Cordero/KG, GMA News