PLDT Inc. and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. said they have asked the government to make more than 300 areas accessible for installation and repair works.

The telecommunications services providers said they recently wrote a letter to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG),    informing the agencies that they are unable to enter more than 300 sites in Metro Manila and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, Rizal, Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Palawan, Iloilo, Capiz, Samar, Misamis Oriental and Zamboanga del Norte due to the community quarantine measures.

“The PLDT Group would like to respectfully appeal to the DICT and DILG to direct local government units and other concerned sectors to enjoin their immediate cooperation in granting the PLDT Group access to its facilities within their respective areas to conduct critical works,” PLDT and Smart said in an e-mailed joint statement over the weekend, quoting their letter to DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II and DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año.

The two companies noted that quarantine restrictions imposed by some local governments have impacted their performance of  essential activities like “service restoration, maintenance, installation works, capacity expansion, replacement and upgrade of critical facilities and other urgent work.” 

Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart president and chief executive officer and PLDT chief revenue officer, said: “The initiative of the government to make it easier for us to build more towers quicker will be a big help in terms of improving coverage.”

Smart has secured a total of 211 building and preconstruction permits from the government for the towers it will build in Metro Manila and in at least 20 provinces.

These permits, according to PLDT, cover towers to be built in Metro Manila and in the provinces of Batangas, Rizal, Palawan, Bohol, Cebu, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Guimaras, Leyte, Samar, Southern Leyte, Camiguin, Davao Del Norte, Davao Oriental, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Misamis Oriental, North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, among others.

The DICT has also issued provisional certificates to 23 tower companies, allowing them to own, construct, manage, and operate common towers hosting cellular sites.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin