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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Telco Tower electrification delays will bog down digital economy

Further feet dragging from these parties will be unacceptable and a serious disservice to their constituents whose welfare and interests they are supposed to serve

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The Department of Information and Communications Technology led by Secretary Ivan Uy has kicked off the National ICT Month in ceremonies with no less than President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. delivering his latest pronouncements championing the acceleration of digital transformation across sectors.

The President opened his statement with a sense of urgency “to adopt all of these new technologies to be able to compete properly in the global stage.”

“Our government must keep up with that frantic pace – and it is frantic – and facilitate the rapid development of our interconnectivity infrastructure to allow our economy to ride the wave and open up an ocean of opportunities for prosperity,” President Marcos Jr. said.

He rightly pointed out that “you cannot compete (in the global market) on an even basis unless you are highly digitalized, both in the private sector and as well in the public sector.”

Very interesting is the launch of the beta version of the eGov PH Super App which the President said will be the citizen’s interface to a “digitized bureaucracy.”

The Super App is envisioned to be go-to app that would make day-to-day government transactions simple, efficient, and minimize corruption.

Users will be able to do e-payments, banking services, receive news and information, e-tourism, and even a people’s feedback mechanism.

I tried downloading it to my smartphone and was able to register already. Check it out.

The National ICT Month banners the theme “Connecting Communities, Enriching Lives, Forging a Digital Future for the Philippines” which encapsulates how strategically critical digital technologies have become from both the macro and micro socio-economic perspectives.

Now that we have this exciting vision to become a competitive digital economy, building the digital infrastructure needed to deliver the broadband connectivity that will enable each Filipino to tap into the empowerments of a digital ecosystem should be the first priority.

When it comes to building this digital infrastructure, the heavy investments have been by the private sector especially dominated by the aggressive expansion and upgrading of networks of the telecommunications companies.

There have been enormous bureaucratic roadblocks that have been streamlined resulting in faster telco tower and fiber optic network expansion in the last couple of years.

But this needs to be sustained further and even improved as internet connectivity is now as indispensable as water and electricity utilities.

As all these technologies and digital infrastructure are powered by electricity, speeding up the electrification of new telecommunications towers has become a major concern of the telco sector.

This was the major issue raised during the recent Telco Workshop convened by the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) held on May 19 at the Globe Telecom Tower in Taguig City.

The meeting had 114 participants from telcos, tower companies and the energy/electricity providers of the country tackling the challenges of existing processes that are delaying the energization of telco towers and how the sectors can work together with government on effective solutions.

The main problem that was identified by the workshop participants is the long turnaround time across all the many steps and procedures to connect telco towers to electricity services.

Among the issues identified were lack of manpower, undefined timelines and schedules of Electricity Cooperatives (EC); Right of Way issues even in non-private roads in the Barangays, additional requirements from ECs; Lack of available meters, poles, transformers in ECs; Slow processing and payments of Bill of Materials and differences in fees of LGUs and Coops; Various post construction documentation and permitting issues in some LGUs.

Mr. Ernest L. Cu, President and Chief Executive Officer of Globe gave insights on the challenges in energizing telecommunication towers bogging down the industry.

“I think one of the biggest bottlenecks today is the energization of particular sites – we can build them but we can’t power them up,” Mr. Cu said.

The group will further pursue initial recommendations to address the delaying factors that were raised.

Some of the suggested solutions are: unify application and documentary requirements, boost the manpower and delegation authority of LGUs for final permit release, standardize and compliance to Service Level Agreements and turnaround times of processing transactions;

standardize government connection and permitting fees, eliminate redundant steps in different cooperative processes, documentary requirements for Occupancy Permit and Certificate of Final Electrical Inspection should be same and not be dependent on national permits;

strict compliance to the provisions of the Revised JMC 1-2021 and RA 11032 in processing permits and licenses related to electric service applications, align with DPWH on streamlining of permits and requirements, among others.

ARTA Director-General, Sec. Ernesto Perez expressed confidence President Marcos Jr. will sign the final draft of the much-anticipated executive order aimed at institutionalizing and further streamlining the tower construction application process.

Most of the delaying factors identified in the ARTA workshop involve processes in the LGUs and Electricity Cooperatives, especially in the rural areas where broadband connectivity will actually bring the most benefits.

Further feet dragging from these parties will be unacceptable and a serious disservice to their constituents whose welfare and interests they are supposed to serve.

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