Philippines incumbent telco PLDT and wireless subsidiary Smart Communications have renewed their call for closer engagement with homeowners' associations (HOAs) to streamline telecoms network rollouts.
PLDT/Smart executives met with HOA representatives from Metro Manila and nearby regions, as well as various government representatives, at a forum earlier this month to discuss issues and concerns around cell sites, as well as the policies and permitting processes covering the rollout of telco facilities within residential communities.
PLDT/Smart and rival Globe Telecom have complained for years that the process of acquiring permits from local governments and HOAs to deploy any kind of telecoms infrastructure is complicated and cumbersome. It was only in July this year that President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. issued Executive Order No. 32, “Streamlining the Permitting Process for the Construction of Telecommunications and Internet Infrastructure”, to address the problem at the national level.
The October forum – organized by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) through the Homeowners Association and Community Development Bureau (HOACDB) in partnership with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) – was the first such gathering under EO 32.
At the forum, Anthony Louen R. Fernandez, senior manager from Smart's Regulatory Affairs office, addressed concerns from HOAs over the safety of cell sites, and reiterated the point that the government can only achieve its ambitions of a “Digital Philippines” if operators can quickly build the underlying networks to support it.
“We need connectivity in all aspects of our lives – inside our homes, at work and in school. We also turn to the internet to accomplish our chores and errands, as well as for rest and recreation,” said Fernandez. “To deliver these benefits, we must have enough number of cell sites in strategic locations to cover the entire country.”
ARTA Director Marbida L. Marbida lauded the efforts of partner agencies to finalize and launch the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of EO 32 at the end of September.
She added that the level of cross-sector collaboration – which includes the Department of Health, the Food and Drugs Administration, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Interior and Local Government, as well as telcos and tower companies – was a good sign.
"The presence of our stakeholders from local government, private sector, and then telco industry is a signal that everyone is very eager to work with each other,” she said. “This is no longer just a whole-of-government effort. It's already a whole-of-society effort.”