IN countries like Australia, UK, Singapore, and Malaysia, switching to a different telecom provider doesn’t mean one has to switch numbers. The Philippine government’s anti-trust body is pushing for local telcos to do the same.

Through mobile number portability (MNP), the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) wants telcos in the country to allow mobile phone users to keep their own contact numbers whenever they switch networks.

PCC has already submitted recommendations to Congress and on Tuesday pushed for the inclusion of the MNP system in Senate Bill No. 1237 during a public hearing by the Committee on Economic Affairs. Prior to this, it also recommended the inclusion of MNP in the franchise renewals of Now Telecom Company Inc., and Smart.

At present, mobile number retention is not available among telco providers, which may compel subscribers to hold on to a provider despite poor service.

PCC Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan emphasized the predicament of consumers in the country’s telco players, who because of few choices, have “become prisoners to the network.” “In this age when a person’s phone number is considered part of one’s identity, changing numbers can sometimes mean lost opportunities, access, or connections. If MNP is in place, a person can retain one’s number without having to worry about that,” said Balisacan in a statement.

“Consumers should want to stay in a network because of good service and not just because they want to keep their longstanding numbers. When disgruntled consumers want to bolt to a new or another network provider, having MNP in place means people are not prisoners of the network simply because they want to keep their digits,” the official added.

PCC said MNP can also deter scams wherein strangers who stole or inherited an old number prey on one’s contacts who have not been informed on the latter’s network switch.

Balisacan said having the MNP in place will push competition in the country’s telco industry where very few players participate. Having more competition will generally lead to better service and affordable rates.