THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) missed again the latest schedule it set for the release of the common tower policy, saying the document could be made public in March.

DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II told reporters on Wednesday that his department “should come up with an announcement on the common tower policy in March.”

“It’s actually on its final draft. We will make the announcement soon,” he added, noting that the department had to consolidate the inputs it gathered from various stakeholders.

He also noted that “not everyone is happy” with the draft policy. “But we said, ‘Democracy [means] the greater good for the greatest number.’”

Mr. Honasan attributed the delays to “bureaucratic problems.”

“But I am not blaming anybody. It’s our job really. We just want to be thorough, comprehensive, and be guided by what the data tell us. The delays are explainable, in short,” he explained.

DICT Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. previously said that the rules governing the shared use of telecommunications towers would be out by “mid-January.”

Mr. Rio gave another schedule on Jan. 29, saying the policy might be made available by February.

In December, Mr. Rio told reporters that the department was looking at three options on the provision that limits the number of companies that can operate common towers. “Of the three options, there’s one without limit, five and seven,” he said.

He added that currently there are only four companies that have secured permits to operate such as ISOC edotco Towers, Inc., which is a joint venture of local company ISOC Infrastructure, Inc. and Malaysia’s edotco Group Sdn Bhd; Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc.; LCS Holdings, Inc.; and American Tower Corp.

The concept of tower sharing is being pushed by the DICT to improve tower density, which it said is one of the lowest in the region at 4,000 subscribers per tower. Allowing common towers means more than one telco can use a single tower, thereby increasing the number of subscribers being served by each tower.

The DICT started work on a new common tower policy in 2018 after opposition to an earlier draft presented by Presidential Adviser Ramon P. Jacinto. This version limited the number of companies that may build towers, and barred network operators from building their own, which stakeholders contested.

In a stakeholders’ meeting held in August last year, the department presented initial ideas that it wants to include in the policy, such as a requirement that towers be built within a given radius apart from one another.

Other proposals are to require telcos to submit an annual tower rollout plan to tower companies, and subsidies for towers that will be built in missionary areas. Government support is also guaranteed only for towers that will be built by independent tower companies to facilitate infrastructure sharing. — Arjay L. Balinbin