The Philippine government has approved the registration of SpaceX's subsidiary in the country, enabling the latter to start providing Starlink broadband in services in the country. Credit: SpaceX

SEOUL, South Korea — The Philippines has approved plans that will see it become the first country in Southeast Asia to access SpaceX’s Starlink broadband services. 

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) approved May 26 the registration of Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of SpaceX that will provide the satellite broadband to the archipelago. 

The approval set the stage for the subsidiary to start providing Starlink services in the country, according to the government-funded Philippine News Agency.

In a statement, the commission said it had approved Starlink’s registration as a “value-added service (VAS) provider,” enabling the company to “directly access satellite systems, and build and operate broadband facilities to offer internet services,” according to the news agency.

“The NTC is steadfast in helping ensure that roll-out of Starlink’s internet access services will be done expeditiously and professionally,” NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said in the statement. 

“The NTC’s swift processing of Starlink’s VAS provider registration was meant to expedite the service”s immediate roll-out.” 

The commissioner said Starlink is expected to cover villages in urban and suburban areas and rural regions that remain unserved or underserved with internet access services. 

The Philippines’ internet penetration rate stood at 67% of the country’s 110 million population as of January 2021, according to data from DataReportal, an independent data collector.

Starlink’s expansion into the country comes after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed legislation March 21 that allows up to 100% foreign ownership of public services in the Philippines. 

The amended Public Service Act encourages investments in telecoms, transport and other sectors deemed essential to public welfare.

In a March 31 statement, Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Starlink will “augment as well as complement existing broadband capacities” and “further capacitate micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), facilitate online learning, e-commerce and fintech.”

Park Si-soo covers space industries in South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries. Park worked at The Korea Times — South Korea's leading English language newspaper — from 2007 to 2020. He earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Korea...