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Gov’t agencies join efforts to improve PH ICT infrastructure

In pursuit of an improved information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure landscape, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) together with other government agencies are putting together their efforts and initiatives to adopt to the “new normal.”

“These inter-agency efforts are initiated with the recognition that ICT infrastructure improvements need to begin with the reduction of bureaucratic red tape that has long interfered with our mission of improving Internet connection in the country,” DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan II said in a statement.

“With everyone stepping up, we hope to fast-track the buildup of telecommunication towers in support of President (Rodrigo) Duterte’s directives to fully address the Filipinos connectivity needs,” he said.


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Internet connectivity

Honasan said the need for an improved ICT infrastructure is still “one of the major concerns of the government” during this public health emergency as the demand for internet connectivity surged among businesses, industries, students, workers, and the larger public.

“In view of this, the department is focused on promoting faster telecommunications tower buildup through reducing tower permitting requirements,” he said.

In July, the DICT, Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), along with other concerned agencies released a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) which aims to streamline the process of applications for the requirements, permits, licenses, clearances, certificates, and other necessary documents for Independent Tower Companies (ITCs) and telecommunication companies (telcos) to construct Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructures (PTTI) in accordance with the DICT’s Common Tower Policy.

In a statement on Friday (Aug. 28), the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), a signatory in the JMC, said that it has updated the guidelines for permit and documentary requirement application for ICT infrastructure projects, including permits to build towers.

DHSUD guidelines

These revised guidelines are contained in the DHSUD’s Department Order (DO) No. 2020-009 otherwise known as the “Revised Locational Guidelines for Base Stations and Other Infrastructure for Cellular Mobile Telephone Service, Paging Service, Trunking Service, Wireless Local Loop Service, and Other Wireless Communications Service.”

It would allow telcos and ITCs to streamline the consent of the homeowners associations (HOA), building owners, and concerned tenants’ consent in their application for permits, allowing for an expedited process in keeping with their commitments under the JMC.

“Instead, for ICT facilities to be built in privately-owned land within residential subdivisions, the responsible officer of the company can submit a written certification executed under oath that states that there is no other available or suitable site within the coverage area and that the location is the best fit for connectivity purposes’” it said.

The order also said that the company should likewise submit an undertaking that promises the conduct of social preparation among the affected homeowners.

The ICT chief said that the Senate is also open to the possibility of suspending tower permit requirements for telcos altogether for three years, in accordance with the government’s planned supplementary pandemic measure, Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or “Bayanihan 2.” These proposed provisions aim to suspend select tower permits, except the building permit.

Recently, the DICT launched an online portal in order to facilitate the digital application and registration of interested ITCs to ease permitting requirements.

Honasan said the DICT has received letters of intent from 13 additional tower companies who wish to register as ITCs.

He said that this was a “welcome improvement” to the department’s existing agreements with the 24 tower companies, which are mostly foreign-owned.