The government should lift bureaucratic barriers that mainly prevent the Philippines to hasten its digital development, including the deployment of infrastructure for telecommunications companies, a consumer advocacy group insisted.

According to CitizenWatch, the administration should “fully enforce the Ease of Doing Business law” and should demolish bureaucratic hindrances on both the national and local level.

“We have learned to embrace digital platforms as a convenient, safe, and reliable tool for business activities. Information and communications technologies have become the default tool as we are learning to adjust a no-contact mode of interactions,” said CitizenWatch Philippines convenor Orlando Oxales.

He related that with the new normal, more people will rely on fast and decent internet connection and mobile phone services are expected to grow exponentially, thus, the government should prioritize boosting the telecommunications and digital infrastructure in both urban and rural areas.

Oxales added that “this should be among the top priorities in the government’s recovery strategy.”

“This is a reality that continues to impede the development of underserved areas that need these digital technologies to boost economic activities and attract investments,” CitizenWatch said.

The group then appealed for regulators to deliberate the permit and certification requirements demanded on all telco projects. CitizenWatch also said that the seven-day limit on permits recommended under the Department of Information and Communication Technology Circular No. 8 on Common Tower Policy Guidelines should be strictly implemented.

“This is the time to wield the political will of this government to permanently resolve the frustrating reality of long and circuitous bureaucratic gauntlets that civil works contractors of telco projects must go thru causing months of delays and unnecessary costs before construction can even start,” Oxales said.

“The government must enable the telco industry to help build a future-proof digital infrastructure network to meet the fast-growing demand of a digitized society linking the ecosystems of government, private industries, and consumers to cloud-based services that are secure, stable, and fast. This fits well with the all-of-society approach to recover from this crisis,” he said.

In the early stages of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the Philippines, the Better Broadband Alliance (BBA) has also urged the government to eliminate congestion in the approval of permits and processing for telecom infrastructures in the country.

According to BBA Lead Convenor Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, this is something that should have been done even before the Philippines faced the COVID-19 situation.

“We need more proactive support from the government. There needs to be a way, not only repairs and maintenance to be carried out by service providers, but also new installations if necessary,” she said.

“The government can ease the permits for all types of technologies to be deployed out there wherever it’s needed,” Santos added.

Santos also stressed the need for more major telco players to enter the Philippines. However, DITO telecommunications, the country’s third telco firm is yet to rollout its services after facing a series of setbacks.

DITO, which is 40-percent owned by China Telecom, said that they will be delaying the implementation of their services in the country because of restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed undersecretary of the DICT, RJ Jacinto, is yet to react to the appeal of CitizenWatch.


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