PUBLIC policy think tank Infrawatch PH has expressed concern over the slow progress in the registration of subscriber identity module (SIM) cards, saying the current pace might result in only around 69.52% of the total number of subscribers getting registered.

“In other words, this means the removal of at least 51.5 million subscribers by the April [26,] 2023 deadline,” Infrawatch PH Convenor Terry L. Ridon said in a letter sent to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) dated Feb. 7.

With the “deeply concerning” pace, Mr. Ridon said telecommunication companies might push for changes in the implementing rules and regulations to hasten registration. He said the government should not allow shortcuts in the registration as defined by Republic Act. No. 11934.

“Allowing changes in registration procedure and requirements will defeat the purpose of the SIM Card Registration Act, particularly the wisdom of Congress to fight online scams and spams, and other malevolent activities undertaken through digital means,” said Mr. Ridon.

On Wednesday, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) announced that it recorded 30.01 million SIM registrations, which is only 17.76% of the 168.98 million subscribers nationwide. The SIM card registration process started on Dec. 27, 2022.

“We are seeing good progress in terms of the registered subscribers, and we look forward to how this will translate to a safer and more secure digital communications in the coming days,” DICT Secretary Ivan John E. Uy said in a press release.

According to the DICT, Smart Communications, Inc. reported a total of 15.48 million SIMs registered, which represents 22.76% of its total subscribers, while Globe Telecom, Inc. recorded 12.2 million SIMs registered or 13.89% of its total subscribers.

Meanwhile, DITO Telecommunity Corp. reported a total of 2.33 million SIMs registered which represents 17.79% of its total subscribers.

The DICT said it will be rolling out more registration booths this week, while its Davao unit tied up with the NTC to help people register in the remote areas of Laak town in Davao de Oro.

“The SIM registration in remote areas is intended to ensure that we are reaching out in areas with limited telecommunication or internet access to assist them in registering their SIMs. The DICT’s Free Wi-Fi sites will serve as the hubs for SIM registration in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas,” DICT Spokesperson and Undersecretary Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo said.

In a separate press release, Globe announced that it will be supporting the government-led SIM registration assistance by deploying booths in 15 areas this week.

Starting Feb. 8, Globe and the DICT will roll out SIM card registration booths in Cotabato, La Union, Isabela, Pampanga, Batangas, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Mountain Province, Antique, Cebu and Davao del Sur.

“We are committed to ensuring that every customer can access SIM registration support whether they prefer to do it online or offline. We’re working hand-in-hand with the government to provide on-ground assistance in areas where our customers need us most,” said Cleo Santos, head of Globe’s channel management group. — Justine Irish D. Tabile