By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday threatened to seize telecommunication companies’ facilities if they do not improve their services by December.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte told Smart and Globe to improve their services or face “closure” or “expropriation.”

“If you are not ready to improve, I might just as well close all of you and we revert back to the line telephone at kukunin ko yan, ie-expropriate ko,” Duterte said.

“I’ll be straight. Smart pati itong Globe, ilang taon na ito? At ang sagot palagi sa akin, the party cannot be reached. E `di saan pala pumunta `yung yawa na iyon?” he continued.

Duterte said the services of the companies have caused the Filipino people’s patience to reach its “limit.”

“Kung ganoon din naman ang ibigay niyo sa amin, we are a republic sovereign country, bear that in mind because the patience of the Filipino people is reaching its limit and I will be the one to articulate the anger of the Filipino people,” he said.

Duterte’s past tirades against the two telcos led to a government-sanctioned bidding which was won by Dito Telecommunity, composed of Davao-based tycoon Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp, Chelsea Logistics Corporation and China Telecom.

Dito Telecommunity is set to launch in March 2021, aiming to challenge the country’s telco duopoly of PLDT and Globe Telecom.

“Kindly improve the services before December. I want to call Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, better have that line cleared,” Duterte said.

Globe blames red tape

In a statement, Globe blamed the permitting process of government agencies for delays in connectivity improvements.

“The long drawn permitting process … [has] hampered cell site builds and laying down of fiber to home,” it said.

Globe said billions had been invested to improve customer services to meet the demand of consumers.

“Service performance and increased consumer demand for data are the key reasons why we have been investing billions of dollars to upgrade and improve our network. This year Globe has earmarked 1.2 billion US dollars in capex, majority of which goes to network and capacity builds,” it said.

Globe also said it had signed a joint memorandum circular with the Department of Information and Communications Technology and other national agencies to speed up the installation of cellular towers that would ensure “robust connectivity in the country.” With a report from Veracel Martinez