NTC chief resigns

After introducing major policy changes in the telecom industry, Mr. Ruel Canobas has resigned as head of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC), citing the health condition of his wife as the main reason.  She is suffering from a gynecological ailment, according to reports.  Commissioner Canobas, a lawyer and a former political adviser of President Arroyo, made the announcement, after spearheading major policy changes in the telecom industry amidst complaints from consumers about vanishing prepaid mobile phone credits or electronic load.

In his resignation letter addressed to the president, Mr. Canobas said his wife needed his full attention because of her situation. President Arroyo, who is on a state visit to the United States, has yet to announce the replacement of Mr. Canobas.  While he did not say what was afflicting his wife, Canobas said it is at this critical time that she needs constant medical attention, emotional and spiritual guidance from members of the family.  "It is for this reason that I am voluntarily leaving my present post, he said.

Mr. Canobas, who had served the president as undersecretary in the Presidential Legislative Liason Office and undersecretary in the Office of Political Adviser, assumed the top post at NTC in July 2007, in place of Admiral Abraham Abesamis.

Mr. Canobas has been a member of then Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo since 1998. During his almost two-year term, Canobas made the most impact in his last two months in office, after being castigated by the Senate for not doing its job in protecting the welfare of mobile phone subscribers.

He led the issuance of a series of memorandum circulars that seek to lengthen pre-paid load validity, prohibit text spam, reduce voice call's unit of billing to six-second pulses from one-minute pulse, and improve the quality of service standard to 98 percent from the earlier rate of 95 percent.
Mr. Canobas also led the approval of the rules and regulations of reference access offer, which mandates the basic terms and conditions for access agreements between telecom providers.

However, Mr. Canobas failed to pursue draft circulars on lower interconnection charges, which consumers group said, could be the best tool to revolutionize the industry.

Access charges or interconnection rates between telecom companies in the Philippines, pegged at PhP4 per minute of voice call, remain the highest in Asia, according to txtmate, a group of mobile phone users mostly composed of University of the Philippines students.

Last year, the NTC also issued two draft memorandum circular which provided for the reduction of interconnection charges to PhP1.50 per minute from the current PhP4 per minute for voice calls and to 15 centavos per text message from 35 centavos.

“However, due to the fear of a cut in their ballooning revenues, the dominant telecommunication companies have registered their opposition to these regulatory measures and these draft circulars have been gathering dust in the NTC’s archives,” said Txmate spokesperson Marcelino Veloso III.

Aside from issuing major policy changes in the past two months, Mr. Canobas also saw the NTC increase its revenues by 44 percent to PhP3.2 billion in 2008 from PhP2.2 billion in 2007.

Deputy Commissioner Douglas Michael Mallillin will be the officer-in-charge of the commission until a permanent replacement is appointed.

Based on Press Release from NTC

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