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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Rationalize LGU fees imposer on digital infra projects—group

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A citizen welfare advocacy group is calling on local government units to rationalize fees required of telcos for the latter’s digital infrastructure projects.

CitizenWatch Philippines co-convenor Christopher Belmonte said current practices undermine the objectives of an executive order streamlining the permitting process for establishing connectivity infrastructure.

“We have to know who ultimately suffers in the end,” he said.

“In this case, that would be the end-users and consumers, who have to make do with limited connectivity amid great demand for broadband services,” he added.

At present, local government units charge fees for the construction of towers, poles, and other infrastructure in their areas of jurisdiction.

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Belmonte said the fees that LGUs require telcos to pay add to the cost of broadband services that all consumers, including their constituents, will eventually pay.

“Ordinances are being issued to charge regulatory fees, ranging from P500 to per pole post, per year and P50,000 per cell tower on top of other fees such as P150,000 inspection/audit and inventory fees,” he said.

“From our own probing, other fees for the building of a cell sites would include building permit, electrical permit, mechanical permit,encing permit, plumbing permit, sanitary permit, civil/structural permit, architectural permit, and electronics permit, with amounts that differ per city/municipality. Furthermore, these fees are not published as standard fees and charged on a case to case basis with amounts ranging from P8,000 to over P70,000,” he said.

“Rationalizing all these fees will enable companies to allot more resources that would speed up the improvement and expansion of broadband services which would directly benefit the constituents and

the local economy of all LGUs,” he added.

Executive Order 32, issued by President Marcos in July 2023, aims to make it easier for telcos to build towers and other digital infrastructure across the country. Specifically, it institutionalizes a set of streamlined guidelines for permits, licenses, clearances, authorizations, and certificates for the construction and operation of telecommunication systems, broadcast towers, facilities, and equipment and service.

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