Poe says whole-of-gov’t backing should hasten cell site roll-out

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Sen. Grace Poe expects the telecommunications companies to fast-track the construction of cell sites across the country with the whole-of-government support and streamlining of permitting processes.

Umaasa ang ating mga kababayan ng malakas at tuluy-tuloy na signal at Internet sa gitna ng pandemya,” Poe, the Senate public services committee chair, said in a statementt.

“The lengthy permit application and uncooperative stakeholders will be a thing of the past. The government has laid the groundwork for fostering system innovation, and we hope telcos will take advantage of this to make significant strides in giving the public quality mobile and Internet experience,” Poe said.

At the same time, Poe reminded national and local government units (LGUs) to strictly follow the processing time for approval of applications for licenses and permits under the Ease of Doing Business Act.

Under the law, the heads of government agencies are primarily responsible for its implementation and shall be held accountable to the public in rendering fast, efficient, convenient, and reliable service. Failure to strictly comply with the law may render them liable criminally and administratively, Poe said.

In the case of LGUs, the Department of the Interior and Local Government may, on its own initiative (motu proprio) or upon complaint, commence investigation and if warranted by the evidence, file a case with the Ombudsman. The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) created under the Ease of Doing Business Act may also do the same.

Sec. 22 of the Ease of Doing Business Act provides that officials found to have violated the law will be charged administratively with a corresponding six-month suspension for their first offense.

On the second offense, persons found guilty will be administratively and criminally liable, which includes dismissal from the service, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, and forfeiture of retirement benefits and imprisonment of one year to six years with a fine of up to P2 million. Officials who commit the crime through collusion with fixers, even on their first offense, will also be penalized in the same manner.

Criminal liability will be incurred by officers who commit the offense through bribery and extortion and will also be held liable under the Revised Penal Code and other applicable laws.

Sec. 23 of the law further provides that the finding of administrative liability is not a bar to the filing of criminal, civil, or other related charges under existing laws.

Poe reiterated the urgent need to build more cellular towers to meet increasing network traffic as public and private operations and transactions have shifted online amid the pandemic.

With the advent of online learning this coming academic year due to the health crisis, Poe stressed that efficient connectivity is a must for the millions of students and educators.

The Internet has also been crucial to the country’s healthcare system in containing the disease, and to businesses that have kept their operations via online transactions.

Earlier, ARTA said that the applications of telcos backed by proper and complete documents and duly paid fees for the construction of cell towers are deemed automatically approved if they have been left pending for more than a week in compliance with the Ease of Doing Business law.

“We look forward to the day when the government and the private sector can work hand in hand to guarantee swift and dependable public service-beyond self-interest and profit-to uplift the lives of our people,” Poe said.

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