By Arjay L. Balinbin
THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it is seeking the aid of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) to expedite cell-site projects delayed by local government units (LGUs).
ARTA is the agency authorized to enforce the Ease of Doing Business Law, which sets deadlines for government agencies to act on permit applications, with the time allowed depending on the complexity of the transaction.
“We are now closely coordinating with ARTA para at least man lang mapabilis ‘yung pag process ng mga permits (to at least hurry along the permit process),” Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. told BusinessWorld in a phone interview Saturday.
He noted that some LGUs have been using the cell site projects of telecommunications companies to “generate income.”
“Pinapahirapan nila ang telcos, ‘yung real estate tax na kinukuha nila every year pataas ng pataas, at pinapasa lang ng mga telcos sa kanilang mga customers (The LGUs are giving the telcos a hard time, and their estate tax collections are rising every year. The added costs are getting passed on to the telco customers),” he said.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law in 2018 Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act.
The law requires applications or requests for government services to be acted upon within three days for simple transactions, seven days for complex transactions, and 20 days for highly technical transactions.
The law applies to all government offices and agencies in the Executive Department including LGUs, government-owned or -controlled corporations and other government instrumentalities.
Mr. Rio said that currently there are at least “27 requirements” that telecommunications companies have to comply with to get permits to erect cell sites.
“Minsan nagiging cause pa ng corruption (The applications are opportunities for corruption),” he added.
He said only around five of those requirements are the responsibility of the national government.
“Madali lang naman ang sa national [government]. Ang problema talaga ay dyan sa ibaba (processing applications with the national government is easy. The problem is worse the lower you go),” he noted.
Only about 400 cell sites were erected in the first quarter , Mr. Rio said, well below the government’s target of building 1,785 each quarter to meet the broader goal of 50,000 cell sites nationwide in seven years.
“Ang problema LGUs have the Local Government Code; they can make their own local regulations at ‘yan ang more or less nagiging problema natin kailangan siguro i-amend ‘yung Local Government Code, na ang provision on infrastructure dapat standard ‘yan for all LGUs (Under the Local Government Code, LGUs have the power to set their own rules, and that has become a problem. Maybe the Code needs to be amended to standardize the rules for infrastructure projects),” he said.
ARTA Director-General Jeremiah B. Belgica was asked to comment but had yet to reply at deadline time.
On Thursday, the DICT appealed to LGUs and homeowner associations (HoAs) to simplify their permit procedures for telecommunications companies erecting cell sites.
The DICT said streamlining the permit process will “support the accelerated rollout of cell sites and other ICT infrastructure for telecommunications companies and Internet Service Providers to benefit constituents and residents.”
It said LGUs and HoAs must do their part to address the need for connectivity during the pandemic.