Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian has urged the government to ensure that Republic Act 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 is applied in full force to allow telcos to build more cell towers.
Gatchalian lamented that while the law calls and allows for the speedier construction of infrastructure for interconnectivity, the inadequate number of cell sites nationwide keeps Internet speed at turtle-pace. Last year, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said that it needs at least 50,000 additional cell towers to improve services.
According to the 2019 3rd Quarter Report by TowerXChange, an informal network among advisors in the market tower industry worldwide, the Philippines has 17,850 cell sites. Thailand has 52,483 cell sites while Vietnam has 90,000.
Gatchalian said the lack of adequate ICT infrastructure is making the transition to digital difficult for Filipinos.
According to former DICT undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr., it usually takes telecommunication companies eight months to secure permits to construct a cell site and another four months for construction.
Under Section 15 of the Ease of Doing Business Law or the Anti-Red Tape Law, local government units and national government agencies are each given seven working days for the processing and approval of licenses, clearances, permits, certifications or authorizations to put up and operate telecommunication facilities, broadcast towers, equipment, and services. The law also provides that failure to approve or disapprove these applications within the prescribed processing time would consider the applications deemed approved.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to move most of our activities online, there is a more urgent need for reliable and accessible internet for everyone. Making this shift, however, has been a big hurdle because of the gaps in our ICT infrastructure and unless the Ease of Doing Business Law is fully enforced, we will not be able to bridge the country’s digital divide,” said Gatchalian.
“Slowly but surely things are moving now. The Department of Interior and Local Government has already issued guidelines on how to expedite the construction of cell towers,” the senator said.
While Gatchalian acknowledged the fact that Globe Telecom and Smart Communications need to improve the quality of their services, he emphasized that the problem is a shared responsibility among the telcos, the local governments, and government agencies such as the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), which was created by virtue of Section 17 of RA 11032, to monitor and ensure compliance with the national policy of anti-red tape and ease of doing business in the country.
“We have to make the business environment conducive. I’m calling on the Anti-Red Tape Authority to do your job and you will make it easier for the telcos to put up cell towers,” Gatchalian concluded.