Below is an August 18 press release from the Office of Rep. Joseph A. Santiago (Lone District, Catanduanes). He is the chairman of the House Committee on Information & Communications Technology.

Filipinos are sending more text messages every day, but now spend less every month on mobile telephone use, Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago, chairman of the House committee on information and communications technology, said Monday.

Santiago said Filipinos spent anywhere from P293 to P148 monthly for mobile telephone services, mainly text messages, in the first semester. This is 10 to 30 percent lower than what they spent monthly over the same period in 2007.

Santiago, former chief of the National Telecommunications Commission, based in his figures on the monthly average revenue per unit (ARPU) reported by the country’s three leading mobile telephone service providers in the six months to June this year.

In regulatory filings, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) reported that subsidiary Smart Communications Inc. generated a monthly ARPU of P293 in the first semester, down 10 percent from P324 in the same period last year.

Sister firm Pilipino Telephone Corp. (Piltel), which caters to lower-income users, had a monthly ARPU of P203 in the first semester, down 12 percent from P230 over the same period in 2007.

Meanwhile, PLDT rival Globe Telecom Inc. posted a monthly ARPU of P283, a decline of 19 percent from P349 a year ago.

Globe’s TM brand, the counterpart of Piltel’s Talk and Text, yielded a monthly ARPU of P148, lower by 31 percent from P216 a year ago.

Santiago attributed the decline in the monthly ARPUs to double-digit inflation, particularly food price inflation, which he said has forced many subscribers to spend less on mobile telephone “loads.”

He noted that around 99 percent of all mobile telephone users are prepaid subscribers that buy airtime and text load as needed.

“Filipinos are definitely spending less on mobile telephone services to make up for increased spending for other needs, primarily for food, electricity and transportation services,” Santiago said.

Despite the drop in spending, Santiago said Filipinos are actually sending more text messages every day.

“The combined traffic figures of Smart and Piltel indicate that their subscribers, on average, send around 23 text messages every day,” Santiago said.

Smart and Piltel reported an aggregate volume of 121.35 billion text messages in the first semester, up five percent or 6.29 billion from the 115.07 billion logged in the same period in 2007.

Globe did not report its text message volume in its filings.

Notwithstanding the decline in the reported monthly ARPUs, Santiago said telecommunication service providers apparently managed to increase their revenues via “bucket” or promotional campaigns that tend to stimulate consumption, and by enlisting more users.

Smart and Piltel reported a total of 33.2 million subscribers as of end June 2008, up 23 percent or 6.1 million from 27.1 million in the same period in 2007.

Globe reported a total of 22.7 million subscribers as of end June, up 25 percent or 4.6 million from 18.1 million a year ago.