Telecom companies say local government units (LGUs) are holding them back from improving their services because it can take eight months to obtain the 25 to 28 permits needed to build a single cell site.
In a meeting Thursday night at the Palace, Ernest Cu, Globe Telecom president and chief executive, told President Rodrigo Duterte that service providers have been “suffering from many, many years of this” even before the current administration.
In his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address, the President complained about poor service and warned Globe Telecom and PLDT he would shut them down if this did not improve by December.
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“There are so many miscellaneous fees, and different kinds of tower fees and a special use permit,” Cu said in Filipino. “We can’t get that standardized.”
“If we apply for 5,000 towers times 28 or 30 permits, how many thousands of permits do we have to get before we can start,” he said.
After hearing Cu’s concerns, Duterte encouraged telcos to issue a formal complaint against local officials who stall the processing of requirements for additional telecommunication towers.
He told telcos not to hesitate to inform the proper authorities.
“Just make a direct complaint,” Duterte said.
The Philippine needs at least 50,000 cellular towers to be able to have the proper coverage and provide adequate service. There are only around 16,000 towers at present, covering 8,000 locations.
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The Department of Information and Communications Technology earlier issued a joint memorandum circular to cut red tape by streamlining the procedures and requirements for permits, licenses, clearances, certificates and other requirements in the construction of shared passive or common towers, reducing processing time from 200 days to just 16 days.
In a speech aired Friday on state-run PTV-4, Duterte said it was corruption that held back the telecommunication companies and that he had told his Cabinet to take “drastic” steps against government offices, especiall LGUs, that slow down the construction of more towers.
On July 23, the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology signed a joint memorandum circular that aims to cut down the processing time of requirements for the construction of telco towers from an average of eight months to about 16 days across the different national government agencies and LGUs.
The memorandum also seeks to reduce the number of required documents from 86 to 35.
Usually, a telco must also obtain permission from homeowners’ association and the city or municipal council through a resolution before it can build a tower.
READ: DICT asks telcos to support common towers
Also on Friday, Senator Grace Poe asked government regulators and telcos to reconcile their inconsistent data on the number of cell towers.
Poe said the statement by Globe Telecom that they only have 9,535 cell sites was contrary to the statement of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that it has 17,292 cell sites.
She also said Smart Communications said it had 24,600 sites, but the NTC said it has 23,000.
“The telcos said they have a total of 34,000 cell sites, but the NTC, said 40,000. And the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) said it has 18,000 cell towers, so which is the truth?” Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public services, said.
The information was part of the report submitted by Globe and Smart 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.