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BETTER MOBILE COVERAGE | Philippines cuts down permit processing to speed up cell site building
July 31, 2020 , 04:45 PM

(July 31, 2020) – President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration on Friday promised to streamline processing of permits to cell site towers for mobile communications after the country’s dominant telecommunications companies blamed the government for putting up barriers to improve their services.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said they will cut down to less than three weeks approval of a permit to build a tower from 200 days as the two service providers race to complete 1,500 cell site towers by the end of the year.

“Dati po inaabot ng 200 days ‘yung pag-apply ng permit,” Año, a retired general, told the president at a meeting on Thursday night, which made Duterte curse on national television. The meeting was broadcasted only on Friday.

“Wala na po ‘yon. Sixteen days to 20 days po ang target para ‘yung lahat ng permit ay tatakbo.”

Año made the assurance to Globe Telecommunications (Globe) and Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) after the two companies hurled back to the government the challenge to improve their service.

Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu, who was present in the briefing, said the company struggles in building cell site towers because it could take at least eight months to apply for 25-29 permits to construct a tower,

“Kung nag-apply kami ng 5,000 towers times, 28 or 30 permits na lang, ilang libo hong permit ang kukunin namin para lang makapag-umpisa,” he said.

Duterte also shared an exchange he had with Cu during the meeting.

“Kasi sabi ko ‘pag hindi mo pa na-improve ‘yan, I will hang you in one of your towers,” the president said,

“Sabi niya, ‘Mayor, you cannot do that because there is no tower. The local governments are all f****** it up, that’s why. So saan mo ako bitayin? Sa lubi?'”

On Monday, Duterte threatened to take over the two mobile phone service providers operations if they failed to improve their services by December.

Año said a joint memorandum circular with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (DHSUD), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) was formed to fast-track the release of permits.

ARTA said the digital agreement had actually been signed last July 23. From 241 days, the process would now be down to less than 20 days. While the 86 documents required would be cut to 35, and the 12 permits down to 8.

The regulatory costs would also be reduced by less than 50 percent.

“Now, there is no more reason for both the private sector and LGUs to hold back the construction of the telco towers as far as the policy aspect is concerned. We just need to all get to work and make it happen,” ARTA said in a statement. (Reports from Maricel Halili | Katrina Elaine Alba/MM)

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