Representatives from telecommunication companies Globe Telecom, Smart Communications, and new player Dito Telecommunity have committed to roll out Mobile Number Portability this year and in phases, according to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
This means subscribers will be able to switch networks or change subscriptions without losing the mobile numbers they currently use.
“They should implement the Mobile Number Portability Act (MNPA), even by phases, as long as it will be done within the first six months this year,” Gatchalian said.
“Telcos may opt to implement mobile porting for postpaid subscribers first within this year and after that, they can focus on the mobile number portability of pre-paid subscribers next,” Gatchalian explained.
Gatchalian, principal author of the MNPA, better known as the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act, recently met with representatives from telcos and global technology service provider Syniverse and discussed how to expedite the implementation of mobile number portability services in the country.
Local telcos earlier estimated that the process of integration, interoperability, and other technical preparations would take some time and will make number portability services ready by the second half of 2021.
But the lawmaker stressed that stretching the deadline that long is a disservice to Filipino consumers who are already fed up with the underwhelmingly poor and expensive services.
“Sinabi nila noong nagkaroon tayo ng pagdinig na ang teknolohiya ay nandiyan na at madali nang maimplementa ang batas. Kaya nagulat ako noong nalaman ko rin sa kanila na isa’t kalahating taon pa ang kailangang hihintayin ng ating mga kababayan,” Gatchalian reasoned out.
The law also removes the interconnection fees charged to subscribers for calling or texting across different networks. “Tututukan natin at sisiguraduhin natin na maipapatapud kaagad ang MNPA. Within the year, iyon ang kanilang commitment at yun ang ating tututukan,” the lawmaker said.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian also underscored the need for a SIM card registration law as a way of running after perpetrators of hoax messages on mobile phones in relation to the Taal disaster.
Gatchalian pointed out how the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) repeatedly flagged the spread of false and unverified information, which causes public panic and confusion.
According to the lawmaker, mandatory registration for prepaid SIM cards will make it easier for authorities to track the perpetrators of fake news and make them accountable for their actions.
“Nakita natin nitong mga nakaraang araw na habang nagsisikap tayong panatilihing ligtas ang ating mga kababayan, may ilan namang sadyang nagpapakalat ng maling impormasyon na lalo namang nagiging sanhi ng kalituhan at pag-aalala,” said Gatchalian.
“Nakakabahala at kailangan nating aksyunan ang mga bagay na tulad nito,” he added.
Gatchalian cited Republic Act 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act which imposes a fine of up to P10,000 and imprisonment of up to six months for persons who spread false or misleading data or information in times of calamities.
Last year, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 176 or the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act. Under the proposed measure, end-users of prepaid SIM cards shall be required to present a valid ID and sign a control-numbered registration form issued by the service provider of the purchased SIM card. Copies of the accomplished forms shall be furnished to the same service provider and the National Telecommunications Commission.
In filing the bill, Gatchalian lamented the unabated rate by which SIM cards flood markets, which he called a magnet for nefarious and illegal activities from untraceable numbers. Gatchalian also took note that SIM card registration is mandatory in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
“Kung maisasabatas ang ating panukala sa pagpaparehistro sa mga may-ari ng SIM cards, mahahanap at mapapanagot natin ang mga nasa likod ng mga maling impormasyon. Masusugpo din natin ang iba pang mga iligal na gawaing ginagamitan ng mga cellphone,” Gatchalian said.