Eliseo Rio, an official within the country’s Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), says that domestic operator Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp (PT&T) should first pay off all its outstanding debts before considering vying to secure the third telecoms operator slot as the local partner of China Telecom. In a phone interview with The Manila Times, Rio reportedly said: ‘They should pay off their debts first … How could they become a player if they have debts?’ in response to widespread press speculation mentioning PT&T as one of the possible partners of the state-run telco chosen by the Chinese government to invest in the country’s telecommunications industry. Further, Rio went on to point out that China Telecom should choose a local partner with ‘strong financial backing’ to prevent a repeat of what happened to San Miguel Corp (SMC) in 2016, which was eventually forced to concede in its bid to establish a credible third operator, in the process selling off its telecommunication assets to the de facto duopoly PLDT Inc. and Globe after partnership talks between SMC and Australian telco giant Telstra collapsed. ‘The partner of China Telecom should be a big consortium. If they form a consortium, there is a chance that they can compete,’ he added, stressing that the government would lend its full support to help get a new entrant off the ground.