Senate wants per second charging on mobiline phone calls

June 24, 2009 9:22 am 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, June 24 -– If things pushed through based on the Senate proposal, more of the 73 million Filipino cellphone subscribers can enjoy a per second charging every time they avail of the services of mobile phone companies.

This after the Senate instructed on Wednesday the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to convene a technical working group (TWG) to study the possibility of ordering the country’s leading mobile phone companies to shift from per minute to per second charging impose to their subscribers.

”We ordered the convening of the technical working group to be led by NTC on how the per second charging can be done as soon as possible. It is not proper that telecos charge us per minute when in fact we consume only 20, 30 seconds of their services,” Senator Manuel A. Roxas II told the media after the Senate hearing jointly conducted by the Senate committees on trade and commerce and public services.

Roxas ordered NTC Commissioner Ruel Canobas to personally convene the TWG with the officials of the telecommunications companies and come out with the result on the Senate recommendation before the resumption of the hearing next week.

The recommendation has been made despite the admission of the NTC that is has failed to act on the complaints of cellphone subscribers due to a court injunction filed by the telecos eight years ago.

Roxas warned the telecos that if they failed to act on the Senate recommendation to reduce the rate of their services and to address other complaints, the Senate will pursue the proposal of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to strengthen the law that created the NTC in 1995.

”As much as possible, they (telecos) should act on this issue now instead of waiting for the revision of the law, which they don’t know how strong and strict the law that we will create,” Roxas said.

Roxas is confident that the telecos would agree to the per second charging based on the comments of Smart Communication, Globe Telecom and Sun Cellular officials during the second hearing on the “disappearing load” as personally experienced by Senate President Enrile.

”The Globe (Telecom) said they are already charging per second but not on interconnection because Smart is against it, while Smart is also amenable to per second but reasoned out there is no regulation and Sun claimed it is already charging per second on calls,” Roxas said.

During the hearing, NTC Deputy Commissioner Douglas Michael Mallillin claimed the commission is powerless to regulate fees charged by the telecos to the subscribers.

”The NTC is only granted residual powers under Republic Act 7925,” Mallillin said, drawing opposition from Senator Joker Arroyo and Enrile.

Arroyo believed that the NTC officials may have misinterpreted the provisions of R.A. 7925, specifically the Article 17 which indicates that the NTC “shall establish rates and tariffs…”

”The world ‘shall’ in the law means it is mandatory for the commission to establish rates and tariffs on the telecommunication companies. What is stated here is full power for NTC,” Arroyo said.

Enrile gave Mallillin a lecture on how to perform his job as public servant after learning that Mallillin, a lawyer, was appointed as NTC commissioner on telecos only two months ago.

”As public servant, your job is to maintain that you are protecting the public and if you will not do that, we might abolish you (NTC) or retain you and give you more power to perform your job,” Enrile said.

Arroyo and Enrile have even insinuated collusion between the NTC officials and the telecos for their failure to impose their authority over the mobiline phone companies.

”I don’t want to use collusion here but it pains to learn that the NTC claims they have no power to fix the rates and tariffs. How and when you did efforts to do your job in setting the rates? You misinterpreted the law that we made,” Arroyo told the NTC officials.

”Something is rotten here. Why it is taking so long? Are you sleeping on the case, sleep as dead?,” the Senate president asked the NTC officials.

Canobas downplayed the conspiracy insinuation, saying, “I cannot accept this collusion. It is not true.”

The chief of the NTC, which is now under the supervision of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology, reiterated in a media interview that R.A. 7925 “is not clear” on imposing rates and tariffs on the telecos.

At present, Smart has 38 million subscribers while Globe and Sun Cellular have 20 and 10 million subscribers each. (PNA) scs/jfm

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