Wired! Philippines PLDT metering scheme shot down at Senate

On January 21, the Chair of the Senate committee on public services has sought a deferment of the phone metering scheme, saying its proponent, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., ''failed to show evidence that it was necessary and equitable.''

Sen. Vicente Sotto III said PLDT's plan to impose charges on local calls should not be allowed to take effect as scheduled in May, under a provisional authority granted by the National Telecommunications Commission.

''We have asked PLDT to submit the necessary documents to support their claims but so far, they have not shown us anything,'' he said after Thursday's, hearing on the controversial plan.

''Considering that PLDT was supposed to implement telephone metering last year and is set to impose the scheme within the next five months, they should have all the data and figures on hand by now,'' Sotto pointed out.

Sotto's committee, supported by the committee on trade and commerce, called hearings on the PLDT scheme amid concerns raised by consumers and other groups over metered calls.

Aside from jacking up bills of frequent telephone users, the scheme is feared to ''inhibit'' Internet usage which is needed for distance education, electronic commerce (e-commerce), and government communications.

Sotto noted that PLDT's concept of ''use more, pay more,'' a justification for the metering scheme, would not really apply as the cost of the call would be substantially the same regardless of the length of time.

Another justification, cited by PLDT and other telecommunications companies who support the metering scheme, is the need to raise revenues to improve equipment and facilities.

But Sotto said PLDT's infrastructure had long been in place, adding the telephone giant had recouped its investments and enjoyed healthy profits through the years.

Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., chair of the trade and commerce committee, observed after Thursday's hearing that PLDT might even be generating more revenue than it was entitled to.

Magsaysay said PLDT officials themselves had admitted that the company was treating corporate income and franchise taxes as expense, allowing the company to declare a smaller return-on-rate base.

Magsaysay said PLDT officials had also acknowledged that the rates being charged subscribers was based on the ''cost of doing business,'' which includes corporate income and franchise taxes.

''In effect, the tax due PLDT is passed onto subscribers who shoulder the taxes of the phone company,'' he explained. ''Now, we wonder why the Bureau of Internal Revenue has allowed this practice all this time.''

Magsaysay warned that PLDT could be charged with over billing subscribers as what happened to the Manila Electric Co. which had been ordered to refund its customers up to P10 billion for exceeding the return-on-rate base allowed by law.

In Thursday's hearings, various groups remained split on whether local metered calls should be allowed.

Supporting PLDT were carriers such as Globe Telecoms, Piltel which is a partly-owned by PLDT, Digitel, Philcom, Islacom, and Bayantel.

Opposing the plan were the Department of Transportation and Communications, and carriers Extelcom and Eastern Telecoms.

Consumer and other advocacy groups, for their part, rejected the scheme as well as questioned the NTC's basis for issuing the provisional authority to PLDT.

 

Copyright by Lynda T. Jumilla

[This news article quoted from the Philippine Cyberview mailing list.]

 


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