Bongbong Marcos: Scrap needless permits for telco works
Construction delays for telecommunications infrastructure —which have been blamed for subpar mobile phone and internet services in the country—may soon be a thing of the past after President Marcos ordered government agencies to stop requiring unnecessary permits for the industry.
Under Executive Order (EO) No. 32 signed on Tuesday, the President said he wanted to streamline the guidelines for the issuance of permits, licenses and certificates for the construction of telecommunications and internet facilities “to ensure the continuous development of the country’s digital infrastructure.”
“No other national or local permit or clearance shall be required in the construction, installation, repair, operation, and maintenance of telecommunications and internet infrastructure,” Mr. Marcos said in his EO.
The new policy was welcomed by officials of the country’s telecommunications firms who had previously pointed to cumbersome permit processing as the root cause of poor services. They earlier noted that even barangay officials could delay the construction of mobile phone towers or the setup of fiber optic cables—sometimes for years—while demanding for concessions.
But the clearances still required under the President’s EO are building permits issued by the Office of the Building Official; height clearance permits from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, homeowners associations and other community clearances, clearances from other government agencies; and “other requirements as mandated by the Constitution and existing laws.”
He said no other permit or clearance should be required in the construction, installation, repair, operation and maintenance of Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure or “common towers”; and in the erection of poles, installation of aerial and underground cables and facilities, underground fiber ducts, ground terminals and other transmission telecommunications and internet infrastructure and facilities.
No longer needed as prerequisites under the President’s order are resolutions from Sangguniang Panglungsod or Bayan and Sangguniang Barangay; environmental compliance certificate or certificate of noncoverage “if the proposed site of construction is outside an environmentally critical area;” certificate of safety evaluation from the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration; and certified true copy of National Telecommunications Commission provisional authority, certificate of public convenience or certificate of registration to provide telecommunication services.
His new order covers all national government agencies, government-owned and –controlled corporations, and local government units (LGUs) that issue permits, licenses, clearances, certifications and authorizations.
The heads of major telecommunications companies said the executive order will help the industry roll out needed telco towers and other critical network components to improve internet access and communications across the country.
“This will help accelerate the country’s digital transformation and open doors for more opportunities to Filipinos in the areas of education, employment and innovation,” said Ernest Cu, president and CEO of Globe Telecom.
PLDT Inc. and Smart Communications, which recently held a workshop with the government Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta), also welcomed the development.
“Through collaborations, such as this workshop, we hope to address the urgent need to operationalize policies to ultimately ensure the highest possible quality of service for all Filipinos, and consequently support the government’s digitalization efforts,” PLDT and Smart president and CEO Alfredo Panlilio said in a statement.
Adel Tamano, chief administrative officer of DITO Telecommunity, said the signing of the EO was a win for the industry.
“The EO will most definitely benefit not only DITO in our efforts to hasten our infrastructure rollout but most importantly the Filipino people who are to enjoy sooner the fruits of faster, more affordable, and reliable services,” Tamano said in a statement.
According to Globe, the latest issuance will lead to better transparency and competition in the sector.
“This EO isn’t just about expediting processes. It’s about setting the stage for a long-term, sustainable digital transformation in the Philippines. It fosters a more inclusive and competitive business environment, spurring innovation that ultimately benefits Filipinos,” Cu said.
PLDT said its workshops were also aligned with the Private Sector Advisory Council’s programs to improve digital infrastructure.
“This also reinforces PLDT’s commitment to its aspirational multiyear transformation, with elevating customer experience as one of the key priorities,” the telco giant said.
In his order, the President also mandated all cities and municipalities to set up one-stop shop for construction permits, which would provide front-line services to applicants securing building permits and other related certificates.
Technical working group
Subject to existing laws, rules and regulations, Mr. Marcos said all covered government agencies and LGUs are enjoined to implement zero backlog policy in all applications for permits and clearances covered by EO 32, which also required them to comply with the annual submission of list of pending applications and compliance to Arta.
A technical working group on telecommunications and internet infrastructure would be created to serve as an oversight body to ensure efficient implementation of the order.
The group, chaired by the Department of Information and Communications Technology, is tasked with crafting the EO’s implementing rules and regulations within 60 days from the effectivity of the order.