Poe says gov’t officials delaying permits for cell sites should be charged

Remiss government officials must be brought to account for any further delay in setting up crucial infrastructures across the country to digitally connect the citizenry amid the pandemic, Sen. Grace Poe said over the weekend.

Sen. Grace Poe

Citing the Ease of Doing Business Act and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Circular 8, Poe stressed that concerned government units are mandated to process and approve permits and clearances for the construction of infrastructures including cell sites within the maximum period of seven working days.

“To deny our people their basic right to connectivity at this crucial period is sheer neglect and dereliction of duty,” said Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services.

Poe said she expects bureaucratic challenges slowing the construction of cell sites to be promptly addressed. Securing a multitude of permits such as right of way, structural, zoning, location clearance, electrical, sanitation, mechanical and occupancy compliance, approvals from the Department of Health, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples usually take a year.

“Connectivity is a must — from health care to education and business — in dealing with this unprecedented crisis,” Poe said. “Hindi na dapat pang umakyat ng bundok o pumunta sa gilid ng highway ang ating mga guro at mag-aaral para lamang makasagap ng signal.”

Cell towers serve to elevate antennas and other communications equipment that transmit and receive signals from mobile devices, simultaneously enabling users to maintain their connection.

The DICT earlier raised the lack of infrastructure in the country, citing that only about 20,000 towers have been built compared with Vietnam’s 70,000. “It is a huge disservice to our people if we cannot even keep them connected amid the pandemic,” Poe said.

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