Telco service still unsatisfactory despite expedited processing of tower permits --- Roque

The country's telecommunication services have not significantly improved yet despite President Duterte's move to hasten the processing of permits for the establishment of cell towers, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said telco companies should make a public commitment on how soon their services would improve.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.

"Sa aking eksperyensiya po, ang aking cellphone impossible pa rin, hindi ka talaga maka-contact sa cellphone ang ginagamit ko ngayon Viber or WhatsApp, iyong voice over internet protocol (Based on my experience, my cellphone service is still impossible. You really can't contact people using a cellphone. I use instead Viber or WhatsApp, the voice over internet protocol)," Roque said during a televised press briefing.

"So sa tingin ko po wala pa ring malaking improvement—para nga pong wala pang improvement (So I think there is still no huge improvement, there seems to be no improvement)," he added.

Roque made the remarks when asked if the President still intends to take over operations of the telco companies if they fail to improve their service by next month.

In his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President warned Globe Telecom and Smart Communications to improve services by December or else face expropriation.  Duterte has criticized the telcos for their "lousy" service to the public and threatened to close them down.

Roque said the President has already taken steps to help telcos when he called on local local government units to act on permit applications for telco towers needed to improve connectivity in the country.  Despite these government measures, he lamented that telco companies have yet to boost the country's mobile and data connection.

"Kinumpirma ko na ang karanasan natin ay talagang ganiyan din ang nararamdaman ng buong bayan, at si Presidente rin siguro napapansin niya wala pa ring improvement (I've confirmed my own experience which seems to be endured by the entire nation too. The President probably observed there is no improvement too)," he said.

Roque also urged the telco firms to present their plans on upgrading their service especially after getting some help from the President.  He also asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to give the Palace an update on the telco service. 

"So hinihimok ko po ang ating mga telcos: Ano naman po ang isusukli ninyo matapos kayong pagbigyan ng Presidente doon sa hinihiling ninyo na mas mapabilis iyong pag-approval ng mga telecom towers? (We're urging the telcos: What will you give back after the President granted your request to speed up the approval of telecom towers?)," he said.

"Tingin ko naman siguro dahil nakuha na nila iyong mga approval, it’s a matter of installing the telecoms towers. Pero I would like to invite both companies to submit to us, iyong mga bagong towers na naitayo na nila and I really want them to commit kung kailan sila magkakaroon nang mas mabuting serbisyo (I think that because you got the approval, it's a matter of installing the telecoms towers. But I would like to invite both companies to submit to us the new towers built and I really want them to commit on when there will be better service)," he said.

Roque observed that the cell towers might not be the cause of the problematic telco service. "Baka naman hindi tore talaga ang problema dahil hanggang ngayon po, parang hindi nag-improve (The towers might not be the problem because up to now, there seems to be no improvement)," he said.

So far, more than 2,000 telco permits for towers have been approved by the local government.

In a report to the President Monday night, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said around 2,220 tower applications have been approved while around 712 remained pending.

The President earlier asked LGUs to act on permit applications of telcos within three days to hasten the improvement of the country’s connectivity. He issued the order after a telco executive complained about the bureaucratic red tape, particularly the excessive permits required, that delayed the construction of cell towers.