NTC’s ‘huge lapses’, LGUs’ ‘delaying tactics’ hinder telcos’ operations, says Poe

Published July 30, 2020, 3:11 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Grace Poe on Thursday underscored the role of state agencies and local governments in improving the services of telecommunication companies (telcos) as President Duterte had ordered in his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Senator Grace Poe (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Poe, during the government’s “Laging Handa” briefing July 30, even chided the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) for its “huge lapses” in regulating and addressing the long-standing issues on telecommunication and connectivity.

“Kung dati pa tong problema, dapat ang NTC mismo ang nagsasabi, ‘Hoy bilisan na ninyo ang inyong serbisyo, ito ang inyong mga penalties’ — eh wala naman tayong nadidinig na ganon (If this has long been a problem, the NTC should have told the telcos that ‘Hey, speed up your services because these are your penalties if you don’t’ — but we are not hearing anything from them),” the chairperson of the Senate public services said when asked about the President’s threat to Smart Communications and Globe Telecom.

Poe also lamented the mismatch in the NTC’s data and those of telecommunications firms on the actual number of cell sites in the country.

While Globe says it currently has 9,535 cell sites, the NTC, on the other hand, said the telco has 17,292 base stations. For Smart, the regulator said the telco has some 23,000 cell sites, but Smart reported about 24,600.

In total, the telcos reported that they have over 34,000, while the NTC has 40,000 in its database. 

The NTC’s mother agency, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), meanwhile, has 18,000 cell towers on record.

“So ano ba talaga ang totoo? Pagdating lamang sa datos di na tayo kumpleto. Hindi talaga nagkakaintindihan ang ating mga regulators at ating mga pribadong kumpanya, hindi siguro nag-uusap nang maayos (So what is true in these figures? When it comes only to data, we are incomplete. The regulators and the private companies are conflicting each other, like they are not communicating properly),” Poe said.

Besides the supposed shortcoming of the concerned agencies, the senator also cited reports that some local government officials have been delaying the construction of the needed infrastructure.

On top of the some 25 permits that telcos have to secure for each cell tower, Poe claimed that “corrupt” officials were hampering the release of the documents.

“Hindi ko sinasabing lahat, pero may iba sa local government leaders na nagsasabi na ‘Dito niyo ipatayo ang cell towers ninyo, sa lupa namin, pero kung hindi niyo ginawa, hindi namin kayo bibigyan ng permits’ (I am not generalizing, but some local government leaders are telling them ‘Build your cell towers on our lands, if you refuse then we won’t give you permits’),” said.

She urged “whistleblowers” to come out and identify such officials.

“Kaya sa tingin ko maganda na alam ng Pangulo ang problema na ito…pero sana mabigyan rin ng Pangulo ng banta ang mga regulatiors natin sa gobyerno at mga local governments (That’s why I think that while it is good that the President knows this problem in telecommunication, I hope he will also warn government regulators and local governments),” Poe said.

“Dahil I’m sure, ‘pag sila ay tinawagan ng Presidente ay manginginig lahat  ng ‘yan at bibilisan nila ang kanilang pagtugon (Because I’m sure, they will be scared and improve their response if the President himself calls them).”

In his SONA last Monday, July 27, Duterte warned that he would expropriate the properties of Smart and Globe should these telcos fail to improve their  services by December.

Poe said that while telcos may find difficult to fully comply with Duterte’s deadline, she said also hopes for “much improvement with existing infrastructure and services.”