Monday, November 19, 2018

Three is a company

My favorite television series in the past was “Three Is a Company,” a happy take-off from “Three Is a Crowd.” It was entertaining and wholesome, what with good natured funny quips and mishaps.

I recall this TV series as I now observe the new industry reality in the telecommunications world. “Three Is a Company” now refers to the three industry players – Smart Telecommunications, Globe Telecoms, and a new player whose name doesn’t yet ring a bell.

A few columns ago, titled “Speed Up My WiFi, I threw my support to the plan to have a third industry player in the telecommunications industry for the simple reason that our digital communications will acquire some more speed.

So, when President Duterte said we would have a “third telco player” there was nary an objection from anyone. “By all means!” is the collective imperative.

And so the search for the third telco player was set into motion, gained momentum – and so in less than a year the public bidding process was over, and a third telco player won the bid.

“Fair and square,” said the National Telecommunications Commission, and we should at least sit up and listen to their narrative that the process was in fact “regular,” “above board,” and yes “transparent.”

The momentum began as we ushered in the year 2018. The Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) began a series of consultations from experts here and abroad on the things we should look for from the third telco player.

Of course, it was obvious that we needed an industry player with the size and stature of the two current telco players. An industry with three players will surely bring excitement and other positive developments that competition brings. 

The idea of a public bidding is to get the best from among the telco player wannabes – qualifying as to their technical competence, and then their financial muscle to deliver what they promise.

The tandem of DICT and NTC has concluded the bidding process, and came out with the winning bidder: Dennis Uy in partnership with China Telecom. The chosen firm (or consortium) could have been another company. And yet so long as the bidding process is regular, above board and transparent – we are assured that we got the best chosen from among the bidding participants.

Ten firms bought the bidding documents from the bids and awards committee (BAC), but only three firms submitted their bids. Therefore, the committee proceeded as required by the selection process. 

As it turned out, the PT & T has been found by the committee as lacking in nationwide presence. 

In the case of Chavit Singson’s group which includes Sears Corp., it failed to submit a P700 million “participation security” on time,  another requirement that was clearly spelled out in the TOR ready by every bidder. 

DICT and NTC officials have every procedural detail to prove that the process was indeed objective and transparent. Dennis Uy turns out to be fully compliant, and he won the bid. This column is not favoring any bidder, not Dennis Uy, not anybody.

What I favor is the good prospect that finally there is a “third telco player” which will shake things up, bring a competitive element – and make us realize the benefits of healthy competition.

DICT and NTC officials must know that selecting the winning telco player is accomplishment enough. But, yes, that’s just starting point. Secretary Honasan of DICT and Commissioner Cordoba must make sure this winner will deliver as he pledged in all the bidding requirements.

What I wish to call “The Telco Watch” begins. Let’s see if the new player has indeed the technical competence to deliver. Let’s see if the competitive climate results to more customer-driven policies that make us telco users happy.

This is the job at hand, gentlemen of DICT and NTC. Kudos on achieving your first goal. The next prospect is to see if the process proves that we got the best. Now that the bidding is all over, let’s watch regulatory officials guide and regulate a telco industry of three players – for success. After all, their success is ours too.

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Women and children are vulnerable victims of gender-based violence in armed conflict areas.  

A report from the United  Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said a rapid assessment conducted in 2017 after the displacement caused by the Marawi siege revealed that women and girls are facing increased risks to gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual abuse, exploitation, and early/forced marriage. The assessment showed that girls were the most affected by sexual violence in 45 percent of conflict-affected sites.

UNFPA stresses that  violence against women and children leaves a significantly negative impact on the survivors’ physical, psychological, sexual and reproductive health, and also on the potential of economic growth of the community and country as a whole. For many women and children, a visit to a health facility may be their first effort to seek help and the only chance to receive support and care, as well as to escape a situation of abuse. 

According to the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in 2015, 14.5 percent of girls and 19.5 percent of boys aged 13-17 have experienced sexual violence. The 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey revealed that five percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced sexual violence. However some 40 percent of these women aged 15-49 who have experienced sexual or physical violence, have never sought help or told anyone about it, reflecting a “culture of silence and impunity” prevailing in the Philippines. 

To provide a multi-sectoral specialized care to the survivors of gender-based violence, the Department of Health, in partnership with UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, established a Women and Children Protection Unit (WCPU) at Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City. 

With support from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund and in collaboration with the Child Protection Network (CPN) Foundation, Lanao del Sur, and Marawi City Police, UNFPA provided equipment for the WCPU and supported the four to six weeks training of the service providers for managing cases of violence and abuse against women and children.

The unit is equipped with a multidisciplinary team composed of a doctor, a social worker and police personnel trained to provide coordinated services that ensure confidentiality and a survivor-centered approach. This is the first WCPU established in the Lanao del Sur province (the 95th in the country), and is expected to enhance access of gender-based violence survivors in the province to coordinated life-saving interventions such as medical care, mental health and psychosocial support, and police assistance. 

“Violence against women and girls is a significant concern to public health and a severe violation of human rights,” said Iori Kato, UNFPA Representative in the Philippines, during the handover ceremony of the WCPU. “If we allow gender-based violence to continue to take its harmful toll not only on the survivors but also on whole families and communities, we endanger prospects for lasting peace and recovery,” he added.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com.



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