Gov’t agencies issue guidelines streamlining permits for common towers

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The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has signed a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) with eight other national government agencies to streamline requirements and reduce procedural delays in securing the necessary permits for common towers.

Aside from the DICT, other signatories to the joint circular are the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Department of Health (DOH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The official document was signed electronically through the use of digital signatures facilitated by the Philippine National Public Key Infrastructure (PNPKI) during the virtual launch held on Thursday, July 23, via the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

The JMC complements DICT’s recently issued circular, which provides for guidelines on the common tower policy. The policy aims to encourage the growth and development of common tower providers as a pioneering sector in the local ICT industry.

“The signing of the guidelines is a significant step in addressing the nation’s connectivity needs that have become more immediate because of the pandemic. The deployment of common towers, particularly in unserved and underserved areas, will improve not only Internet condition, but also socio-economic welfare through ICT,” DICT secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said in a statement.

The ICT agency noted that one of the key reasons for the country’s slow deployment rate of telecommunication towers has been the red tape associated with its permitting requirements.

With the passing of the joint circular, common tower providers will be unburdened with the multiple permitting requirements and can focus on the accelerated roll-out across the country, the DICT said.

The guidelines aim to shorten the entire timeline — to a target period of 16 days, from the original period of over 200 days — for constructing by local telcos and common tower providers registered with the DICT, in order to facilitate accelerated rollout of telecommunications infrastructure.

Under the joint circular, the following permits are no longer required as pre-requisites for the construction of common towers:

  1. Sangguniang Panlungsod/Bayan Resolution;
  2. Sangguniang Barangay Resolution/ Barangay Council Resolution;
  3. Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) or Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC), if the proposed site of construction is outside an environmentally critical area (ECA);
  4. Radiation Safety Evaluation Report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and
  5. Certified True Copy of NTC Provisional Authority (PA) or Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) or Certificate of Registration to Provide Telecommunication Services of PTTIs (Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructures)

A Certificate of Use for PTTIs, which is easier to acquire, will now be issued by the Office of the Building Official instead of the Certificate of Occupancy which demands more stringent standards. A separate issuance for Locational Clearance guidelines is being drafted by the DHSUD in accordance with JMC provisions.

Additionally, CAAP will no longer require a Height Clearance Permit (HCP) for PTTIs below 50 meters that are located outside of CAAP Critical Areas (CCA). Instead, an Undertaking by a licensed Geodetic Engineer attesting that the PTTI will be built outside of CCA will be given for submission to the LGU.

Regarding the processing timeline, the periods for the processing, approval and issuance of permits are required to be done within seven days to reflect the mandate under RA 11032 or the “the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018” and Section 6.5 of the JMC.

Permits and clearances not approved within the prescribed periods shall be deemed automatically approved, as required by Section 10 of RA 11032.

To avoid delays, the permitting process among national government agencies and LGUs shall run parallel, with no permit from any office serving as a pre-requisite before other permits are processed and issued.

The DICT said it will be closely monitoring the permitting process as LGUs are required to inform the ICT agency regarding the approval and disapproval of any building permit applications involving common towers. LGUs are likewise prohibited from requiring documents or clearances other than those expressly enumerated under the JMC.

The JMC guidelines are part of ARTA’s National Effort for Harmonization of Efficiency Measures of Inter-related Agencies (NEHEMIA) project. Project NEHEMIA is a streamlining initiative to reduce the permitting time, costs, requirements and procedures by 52% in 52 weeks for the key sectors — including telecommunications.

“In these trying times, our country is calling on us, as those in government service, to render full assistance and cooperation, and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate measures to curtail and eliminate the threat of Covid-19. This Joint Memorandum Circular is a testament to the convergent efforts of the government to institute measures that will greatly redound to the benefit of the Filipino people,” Honasan said.

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