Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, October 27, 2008

Innove takes on PLDT, seeks TRO on Bonifacio Global City tussle

Innove pointed out that PLDT has not learned from its “painful lessons,” citing the previous decisions of quasijudicial bodies and the Court of Appeals in a similar case between Innove and Subictel, a subsidiary of PLDT.

INNOVE Communications Inc. lashes back at Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) for seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO to stop regulators from implementing a 2002 circular, saying the phone giant’s move exhibits “monopolistic greed and criminal scheme.”

“The issue in the present case is PLDT’S monopolistic beliefs, practices and greed, on one hand, versus Innove’s right to render public telecommunications service in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and public service itself, on the other. The choice for this Honorable Court in resolving the reliefs prayed for by PLDT is obvious. Public service cannot wait and it cannot be sacrificed because of PLDT’s monopolistic greed,” said Globe Telecom legal counsel Rodolfo Salalima. Innove is a wholly owned subsidiary of Globe.

PLDT wants the Quezon City regional trial court (QCRTC) to declare null and void the policy of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) declaring BGC as a “free zone” where all carriers can operate.

But the phone giant is asserting its rights and so is Bonifacio Communications Corp. (BCC), which filed a separate case against Innove and Fort Bonifacio Development Corp. (FBDC) before the Pasig regional trial court. PLDT and BCC claimed they have the exclusive rights to own, maintain and operate all telecommunications infrastructure in the BGC under an agreement they signed with FBDC. PLDT currently holds 75-percent equity in BCC.

In a separate case, FBDC is now being sued by BCC for breach of contract after the former declared it sided with Innove. Ayala Land Inc. and Evergreen Holdings Inc. are now the controlling shareholders of FBDC after they acquired the Metro Pacific Group’s shares in BCC.

Innove, which had sought NTC’s assistance to enforce its 2002 circular, wants the QCRTC to dismiss PLDT’s complaint, saying the court lacks jurisdiction.

“Because the Innove complaint was filed with the NTC ahead of the instant case, and because the NTC, under Republic Act 7925 and related statutes, is the ‘principal administrator’ and implementor of all telecommunications issues and matters stated in that law, primary jurisdiction over both the NTC/Innove complaint and the present case is thus lodged exclusively with the NTC to the exclusion of this court,” said Salalima.

Even if the so-called exclusivity agreement is binding, Innove said PLDT cannot claim service exclusivity in the BGC by resisting and preventing Innove from providing public telecommunications service because its authorization from the NTC to provide telecommunications service nationwide had long become final and executory, as well as valid and binding.

Innove pointed out that PLDT has not learned from its “painful lessons,” citing the previous decisions of quasijudicial bodies and the Court of Appeals in a similar case between Innove and Subictel, a subsidiary of PLDT.

The case involved Subictel’s claimed exclusivity of service agreement with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to be the only provider of telecommunications service in Subic. But SBMA allowed Innove to render telecommunications service in Subic. Subictel then questioned this grant of authorization to Innove going to the extent of forum shopping again. The SBMA, the NTC, the Regional Trial Court, and the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Innove and against Subictel on the main reason that public telecommunications service provisioning in any given area in the Philippines “is not and shall never be exclusive conformably with the law.” Written by Lenie Lectura - Business Mirror

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