Group backs SIM card registration extension; asks gov’t to simplify process
MANILA, Philippines — A consumer rights group has supported extending the subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration deadline and suggested simplifying the process to increase compliance.
According to CitizenWatch Philippines, SIM card registration must sign up as many people as possible – thus, an enrollment period extension is necessary. The SIM card registration deadline was set on April 26.
CitizenWatch Philippines co-convener and former Quezon City 6th District Rep. Kit Belmonte proposed that alternative modes of identification be allowed – like the office or school identification cards – if people cannot complete the set of requirements asked by the government.
“We need to get the message across to more people that they need to register their prepaid SIM cards. These are times when we take for granted the ease with which we use mobile devices, but we also need accountability for their responsible use,” Belmonte said.
“Let us take advantage of the provision for extension in the law and give all the opportunity for consumers to register,” he added. “Many find it difficult to comply with identification requirements so alternatives like office or school IDs should be considered.”
Belmonte also lamented that the process could have been more straightforward if the National ID System was already operational.
“Had the National ID system been distributed and in operation, SIM registration would have been much faster,” he said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed Republic Act No. 11934, or the SIM Registration Act, in October 2022. The law aims to curb phishing scams and other crimes perpetrated through text messages.
Under the law, existing phone users must register their SIM cards, while new buyers must present documents for identification. This ensures that someone will be held accountable for text messages or calls sent incognito or anonymously before.
Last week, a lawmaker called for an extension of the SIM card registration period.
Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. LRay Villafuerte said on April 13 that based on government data, only 39.41 percent of the 168.9 million SIM cards used in the country have so far registered. He cited the information posted on the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) website, which showed that 66.21 million SIM cards had been registered as of April 11.
If this pace is sustained, there may only be around 85 million SIM cards registered by the deadline on April 26.
Belmonte and CitizenWatch noted that even telecommunication companies believe there is a need to extend the deadline.
The former lawmaker was referring to recent statements from telco officials saying they are requesting for an extension to give time for marginalized sectors and those located in outlying parts of the country to register their SIM cards.
Belmonte aired the same sentiments – that people with limited access to the internet or mobile data need more time for the process.
“The Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and the NTC need to work in tandem with the telcos to ramp up the information drive,” he said.
“Those in urban centers and who are part of the formal economy may have no problems registering, but the subscriber base we are talking about reaches to the entire archipelago. We have to let them know of the dangers of the lack of responsible use of SIMs, and the potential damage that fraudsters can inflict on hapless ordinary consumers,” he added.
He also urged a more aggressive campaign to ensure people are aware of the SIM card registration period.
“We at CitizenWatch believe that mandatory SIM card registration will help protect telco subscribers from cybercriminals by stripping them of their anonymity shield. We hope the DICT and NTC will grant the extension for SIM card registration and work with telcos in launching a more aggressive information campaign,” Belmonte said.