The Philippines’ often-controversial president Rodrigo Duterte warned the county’s two dominant mobile operators – PLDT-Smart and Globe Telecom – that he will open the market to Chinese competition if they fail to improve their poor service.

Duterte said he shared the frustration of the country’s mobile users, who have endured slow internet speeds and generally poor service, the Inquirer reported. “If you cannot do it right, you wait, I’m going to China and I’ll open everything for competition.”

Duterte is scheduled to visit China from 18 to 21 October.

Smart and Globe, which control 99 per cent of the county’s mobile connections, in May jointly purchased the telecoms assets of San Miguel Corp, which previously was considering launching a third mobile operation in partnership with Australia’s Telstra to inject some much-needed competition into the market.

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has attempted to review the deal but has been blocked by the courts after Smart and Globe filed for temporary restraining orders in July. PCC issued a statement in late August warning that the deal is “likely” to negatively impact competition.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the government will wait to see how Smart and Globe use San Miguel’s assets to improve services, particularly in rural areas currently not served. But if they fail to shape up, he warned that the Department of Information and Communications Technology can set up up a state-owned telecoms firm to compete with them or bring in a third player to increase the competition, the newspaper reported.

“We want to have vibrant competition and end the two-player competition, which is why it is called a duopoly,” Andanar said.