Economic liberalization to boost Internet services in PH

June 28, 2021

Opening the economy to foreign investments through constitutional reforms would yield better internet services, improve investment schemes in telecommunications, and enable the transfer of technology and management skills to Filipinos.

Benjamin Azada, chief strategy officer of Converge ICT Solutions Inc. said that opening the country’s telecommunications sector would further give access to advance technology and create more competition on digital infrastructures.

“Opening up to foreign direct investments (FDI) will unlock the digital infrastructure in the Philippines as well as upgrade technical and management skills of Filipinos and bring in training and technology transfer especially in businesses,” Azada said during an online forum on the importance of constitutional reforms in the economy to boost telecommunications sponsored by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Azada is the chief strategy officer of Converge ICT Solutions, Inc., a telecommunication service provider in the Philippines that operates fiber-optic broadband networks, cable television (marketed as Air Cable), and cable internet (marketed as Air Internet) in the country with 1.18 million FiberX subscribers as of March 2021.

According to Azada, economic liberalization would enhance export growth and increase employment essential to the country’s rapid economic growth and competitiveness. In his presentation, Azada showed the FDI regulatory restrictive index which measures statutory restrictions on FDI across 22 economic sectors in the year 2019.

Azada said ASEAN data level per sector showed the Philippines has the most restrictive and the most number of sectors identified by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Such entrenched barriers to FDI prevent us from realizing higher economic growth, more competition, hinders technology transfer, job generation, and of course, consumer choice,” he said.

He said Converge supports measures that will boost the competitiveness and unlock the full potentials of the telecommunications industry, including the fixed broadband market.

Meanwhile, Iloilo Rep. Lorenz Defensor, the vice-chairperson of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said the House has transmitted RBH2 to the Senate on June 2 for its consideration.

“Given the bicameral nature of our congress, we have to respect that the Senate also has the obligation to act on the proposed amendments before it can be submitted to the Filipinos by way of a plebiscite,” Defensor said.

For his part, Gary Olivar, a resource person of the CORE Movement and director of the Center for Strategy, Enterprise, and Intelligence (CenSEI), said he was optimistic that RBH2 would be discussed and passed by the Senators in no time.

“We have no option to fail. I tend to be more optimistic that we can gather and lobby votes from the Senate especially with the help of our Congressmen,” Olivar said.

The DILG webinar sessions with partners support the Resolution of Both Houses No. 2 (RBH 2), authored by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, which was approved on the third and final reading on June 1. The resolution is now pending in the Senate for approval.

The measure seeks to include the phrase "unless otherwise provided by law" to empower Congress to pass laws lifting current restrictions on foreign investors of public utilities, educational institutions, media, and advertising companies.