‘Bayanihan 2’ to pave way for faster cell tower construction, says Drilon

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The newly-signed “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” will fast-track the construction of telecommunication towers in the country, according to Sen. Franklin M. Drilon.

Sen. Franklin Drilon

Drilon said the law contains a provision that he proposed which temporarily suspends most permits for the installation and operation of cell towers in the country within the next three years.

There are about 29 to 35 documentary requirements and permits before a single tower could be built in a subdivision, barangay or town, Drilon noted. These permits include consent of the neighbors, barangay resolution, certificate of non-coverage, zoning clearance, height clearance, radiation evaluation studies, building permit, a city or municipal resolution, occupancy permit, mayor’s permit, memorandum of agreement with DENR-NIPAS, among others.

Local telcos Globe Telecom and Smart Communications have cited the difficulty in getting clearances and permits to build cell sites and towers, which can take years to complete, he noted.

Drilon also proposed a provision against the issuance of any temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction against the construction of telecommunications infrastructure, including cell sites and cell towers by courts except by the Supreme Court.

The lawmaker said the new law is also expected to raise P17.5 billion in additional revenues from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).

Drilon said the Bayanihan 2 redefined the taxation of POGO and tightened the regulations in a bid to raise funds to augment the government’s dwindling resources.

“The Bayanihan 2 will more than double the tax collection from POGO — from P7 billion estimated collection in 2019 to approximately P17.5 billion this year because of the reforms we have introduced in the measure,” said Drilon citing the estimates by the Department of Finance.

The government wants to tap into the offshore gaming industry to close budget gaps in the P165-billion stimulus fund, he noted. The Bayanihan 2 can only fund up to P140 billion. Thus, the measure sets aside P25 billion as standby appropriation which can be funded when there are additional revenues or windfall collections, Drilon noted.

“All revenues from POGO will be used to fund the various types of assistance laid out in the Bayanihan 2 for all sectors affected by the pandemic,” he added.

The Drilon amendment strictly mandates that the 5-percent franchise tax shall be on the gross bets or turnovers or the pre-determined minimum monthly revenues from gaming operations, whichever is higher, earned by offshore gaming licensees, including gaming operators, gaming agents, service providers and gaming support providers.

“With this amendment, the government can now impose the 5-percent franchise tax on the gross bets or turnovers which will yield more revenues for the government,” he added.

The Bayanihan 2 also tightened the regulations on POGO to fix the loopholes in the current system, Drilon said.

Under the measure, the tax shall be computed on the peso equivalent of the foreign currency used, based on the prevailing official exchange rate at the time of payment, in order to prevent under-declaration of income.

Failure to follow the provision will be considered as a fraudulent act constituting underdeclaration of taxable receipts or income, and shall be subject to interests, fines and penalties under the National Internal Revenue Code of the Philippines, Drilon added.

The measure orders the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to shut down POGOs which fail to pay the taxes due.

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