Philippines seeks more foreign investors in telecom, says China in frontline

The Philippines
Nicanor Reyes Street, Manila, Philippines. Photo by Gerald Diño on Unsplash

The Philippines will open up its telecommunications sector to more foreign investors, and an invitation by President Rodrigo Duterte isn’t just for Chinese companies, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.

“The best offer would be picked from other offers as well,” Pernia told reporters on Saturday at a forum in Manila, when asked if only Chinese companies would be considered by the government. “China is in the frontline now because no other country has sounded out or expressed interest to come in.”

Duterte, who has sought warmer ties with Beijing amid a territorial dispute between the two countries, offered China the right to operate in the Southeast Asian nation during bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month, Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said on Nov. 20.

Duterte’s commitment to open up the sector has prompted local companies such as Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp. to start talks with China’s two biggest telecommunications provider to help challenge PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc.’s dominance. The two became the nation’s only wireless carriers when the San Miguel Corp. conglomerate sold its nascent wireless phone carrier to those companies for 70 billion pesos ($1.4 billion).

The president’s order for government agencies to act swiftly to ease foreign-investment limits is a first step toward opening up the telecommunications sector, according to Pernia. “There’s a lot of urgency to this,” he said, adding that better connectivity was a promise Duterte made during his election campaign.