Lacson seeks removal of telco interconnection fees


MANILA — Senator Panfilo Lacson is pushing for the removal of interconnection fees charged by public telecommunications entities (PTEs) for calls between two different networks in order to protect mobile phone subscribers.

During Tuesday’s plenary session, the veteran lawmaker introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 1636, the proposed Lifetime Cellphone Number Act, seeking to remove “burdensome” charges imposed by PTEs on mobile phone subscribers for domestic calls and SMS (text) messages.

“We are here to protect the consumers. And the consumer, not being made aware he is calling through a different PTE (public telecommunications entity), is helpless in being charged with PHP2.50 for mobile calls and 15 centavos for SMS,” Lacson said at the period of amendment for the bill.

In calling for the removal of the said charges, he cited figures from the National Telecommunications Commission indicating that telecommunications firms (telcos) made some PHP806.9 million in 2016 in interconnection fees on domestic calls including SMS.

“Yet, the PHP806.9 million is a measly 0.82 percent of the total operating revenue of telcos of PHP98.35 billion for the same year,” Lacson said.

His proposed amendment was immediately accepted by bill sponsor Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who noted that many subscribers are stuck to a single network because they are avoiding interconnection fees.

“With this amendment, Sen. Lacson managed to save consumers almost PHP6 billion in interconnection fees. This is actually a lot of savings for consumers considering every time you call another network you are charged PHP2.50 per minute, on top of PHP7.50 per minute call, even on dropped calls. It’s not a one-time interconnection fee but per minute,” Gatchalian said.