Sen. Grace Poe has asked government regulators and telcos to reconcile their inconsistent data on the number of cell towers in order to have a clear basis for ramping up efforts to boost connectivity in the country.
“Sinasabi ng Globe meron silang 9,535 cell sites, ang sabi ng NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) ay 17,292 ang kanilang cell sites. Ang Smart, 24,600 ang stations, ang sabi ng NTC meron daw silang 23,000. Ang sinasabi na total ng mga telco, meron silang 34,000 na mga cell site, pero ang sinasabi naman ng NTC, 40,000 daw ang meron. At ang sinasabi naman ng DICT, 18,000 ang mga cell tower, so ano ba talaga ang totoo?” Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, said in a television interview.
The data were part of the report submitted by Globe Telecom and Smart Communications as well as the NTC to the committee on their plans to improve connectivity. Third player, Dito Telecommunity, has yet to turn over its report.
Poe underscored the urgent need to build more cellular towers to meet increasing traffic as work, education and a number of transactions have shifted online amid the pandemic.
She said having an accurate data on the number of cellular towers and where they are situated will give regulators a thorough picture if the telcos have been complying with their commitment toward digitization and what government can do to speed up the rollout of crucial infrastructure.
The senator acknowledged that the telcos’ efforts to invest in building more cell sites rely on the cooperation of local government units and other stakeholders, which issue the permits to jumpstart the construction. “Ngayon, halos 25 proseso o mga pirma ang kailangan para payagan ang telco na magpatayo ng cell tower na tatagal ng anim na buwan hanggang isang taon. Parang bahay na ang pinatayo mo kung ganoon,” she said.
Poe urged the cooperation of the private firms to disclose the causes of delays in their application for permits so that agencies could act on them. “Sabihin nila sa atin kung sino ba sa gobyerno ang umiipit sa kanila. Kung seryoso talaga ang ating gobyerno na mapabilis ang Internet, alam ko na hindi papabayaan ang hinaing ng ating mga kababayan na mabigyan na ng tamang serbisyo,” she stressed.
Poe said the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) related to the common tower initiative is also expected to remove the roadblocks in the processing of the permits. The JMC aims to significantly remove red tape by streamlining the procedures and requirements for permits, licenses, clearances, certificates and other requirements in the construction of common towers –reducing processing time from 200 days to just 16 days.
The circular was signed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Anti-Red Tape Authority, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Department of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration.