By Jun Ledesma

Misreading Duterte

THE telecom duopoly must be feeling the heat of the President’s hyperbole. He wants to speak with God in Bethlehem but all the answers he gets is ‘’ the number you are calling. cannot be reached”.

The so-called  “ber” months are just around the corner and soon it will be December.  The President will make that call again ergo he gave both Globe and Smart to improve their service or else...

Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte may sound absurd but be careful of what will happen next. He does not want to dish out expletives during his State of the Nation Address and so he speaks in a manner that sounds ridiculous and amusing but delivers a stinging rebuke. Irate at the unwillingness of people to follow the simple directive to  (properly)wear a mask, social distancing, and washing or disinfection of hands with alcohol he blurted out saying you can use gasoline to disinfect. The anti-Duterte cabal had a fiesta lampooning the President who went to sleep smiling he made the opposition happy with their sarcasm. 

For Smart and Globe, the Duterte’s hyperbole means he knew they have been in the business for 30 years and all they can build are 18,000 towers against Vietnam’s 70,000. And the Philippines was very much ahead in the telecom race. Up to now, these two major players thought that this probinsyano President lacks knowledge of what’s going on in the telecom industry. Well, this President knew that they have been remitting a substantial amount of their profits to their principals but for three decades failed to invest in the necessary telecom infrastructure.  Duterte is not pleased the Philippines has the notoriety of having the poorest telecom service in Asia. \

For the people who refuse to heed the simple protocols to curb COVID infection, that means we might go back to ECQ, MECQ,  GCQ, or MGCQ to keep the bull-headed quarantined or locked down.  Watching TV coverages would show us people having masks but are not wearing these properly. People are told to stay home if there is nothing important that would need their presence outside their residence. 

But we love to party,  hold rallies because press freedom and democracy died when ABS CBN franchise was not renewed and because an anti-terrorism law was passed. Thus, in one small UP barangay alone 118 contacted COVID.  And here comes VP Robredo asking her a handful of believers to regroup and revise the government strategy to address the rising statistics. Our health workers are having fatigue and they plead for a two-week break. President Duterte heard them, gathered his Cabinet, and decided Metro Manila will be on Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine. A fresh package of assistance and incentives will be given to the frontline health workers. Meanwhile, the President pleaded to them to hang on as he responded to their appeal for a break. 

The telecom duopoly is trying to evade from the president’s order to shape up. Instead of responding to the President’s appeal to improve their service they went to media to say that government red tapes come in the way of their plan to set up telecom towers. Really? You want the public and Duterte to believe that because of red tapes, the duopoly can only set up 18,000 towers combined? Or is because you were raking in money from just having text messaging so why invest in towers when you are earning oodles of money anyway! Do not beguile Duterte and the public in a grand tomfoolery.  

This government might as well give a chance to other players. Allocate frequencies to others aside from the 3rd Telco. A fourth or fifth will not harm the government. These new players can leap-frog to the latest technology and can come together for a common tower arrangement, a partnership that the duopoly abhors because it will diminish their profits. 

Whether or not we go back to normal or adapt to a new normal, the country needs an expanded and reliable telecom service as it migrates to new e-government. There will be no turning back in this one. This would require commitment and a tremendous amount of capital yet there are a number of investors who are willing to partner with new players knowing for a fact that around 45% of the country lacks or has no viable telecom service at all. In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, it only needs community cooperation to curb the rate of infection: WEAR THAT MASK PROPERLY,  MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING, WASH OR DISINFECT HANDS, and stay home. 


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.