Telcos welcome EO cutting red tape in infra permit process


AFTER years of reeling from red tape, local telecommunications companies on Thursday hailed the signing of an executive order streamlining the permitting process for the construction of telecommunications and Internet infrastructure in the country.

In order to guarantee the ongoing development of the nation’s digital infrastructure, EO No. 32 issued by the President stressed the need to institutionalize a set of streamlined guidelines for the issuance of permits, licenses, and certificates for the construction of telecommunications and Internet infrastructures.

Earlier, local telcos had campaigned for the extension of the streamlined procedure for such processes, calling for the institutionalization of the joint memorandum circular (JMC) of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) as mandated under Republic Act No. 11032 amending Republic Act No. 9485 or the Anti Red Tape Act of 2007.

According to Globe Group President Ernest Cu, the issuance of EO No. 32 is seen to pave the way for “greater digital transformation in the country” and will help in “bridging the digital divide by increasing access to digital resources, services, and opportunities.”

“We are grateful to President Marcos for issuing this EO, which will allow the telco industry and the adjunct towerco [tower company] industry to further ramp up infrastructure builds that will provide life-enabling connectivity in an equitable way 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,” he said.

Cu added that the order has long-term implications, as it encourages transparency and efficiency across all government agencies and local government units (LGUs) involved in the process.

In issuing the EO, Marcos said the order will cover all national government agencies (NGAs) and instrumentalities, including government-owned or –controlled corporations, as well as local government units (LGUs) involved in the issuance of permits, licenses, clearances, certifications, and authorizations.

Among those covered include construction, installation, repair, operation and maintenance of Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure; and, 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.

“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.

For his part, Dito Telecommunity Corp. Chief Administrative Officer Adel Tamano said the streamlined permitting process will help the company further in its infrastructure rollout plans.

“The EO will most definitely benefit not only Dito in our efforts to hasten our infrastructure roll-out but most importantly the Filipino people who are to enjoy sooner the fruits of faster, more affordable, and reliable services,” he said.

Meanwhile, PLDT Inc. shared a press release on its partnership with the ARTA, which resulted in a workshop earlier this week. It noted that it “hailed” the issuance of EO 32.

The document quoted PLDT President Alfredo Panlilio as saying: “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.”

The EO made it clear that “No other national or local permit or clearance shall be required in the construction, installation, repair, operation, and maintenance of telecommunications and Internet infrastructure.”

Among those exempted from EO 32 coverage are building permits issued by the Office of the Building Official; Height Clearance Permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), homeowners associations and other community clearances, clearances from other government agencies, and other requirements as mandated by the Constitution and existing laws.

The President’s order also mandates all cities and municipalities to set up one-stop shops for construction permits, which will provide frontline services to applicants securing building permits and other related certificates.

Subject to existing laws, rules and regulations, 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 with the ARTA.

The EO also organizes a Technical Working Group (TWG) on Telecommunications and Internet Infrastructure as an oversight body to ensure efficient implementation of the order.

The TWG, chaired by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), is mandated to craft the EO’s implementing rules and regulations within 60 days from the effectivity of the order.