THE telecommunications industry and the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) are asking President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to issue an executive order (EO) to make permanent the expedited permit process for the construction of towers and other internet infrastructure.

ARTA and the telcos, represented by the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Digital Infrastructure Sector, noted that a joint memorandum circular issued in 2020 “streamlined guidelines for the issuance of permits, licenses, and certificates for the construction of shared passive telecommunications tower infrastructure.”

The memorandum circular, which was revised in 2021, also “streamlined guidelines for the issuance of permits and clearances for the erection of poles, construction of underground fiber ducts, and installation of aerial and underground cable and facilities,” ARTA and PSAC Digital Infrastructure Sector said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

They said that such issuances, which will expire next year, have resulted in more permits issued to telcos in a shorter period of time, expediting the construction of their projects.

“Comparing the pre-reform and post-reform periods, there were only 7,902 permits approved from July 2019 to June 2020, while 36,264 permits were approved from July 2020 to June 2021,” they said.

“In just one year of implementation, the ARTA telco initiative increased approved telco permits by 358.92%,” ARTA and the PSAC Digital Infrastructure Sector added.

Documentary requirements were also reduced to 35 from 86, while the turnaround time fell to 16 working days from 241.

According to Globe Telecom, Inc., it was able to ramp up its builds, securing nearly 12,000 permits for the construction of new facilities over the last three years with the help of the streamlined permitting process.

“From 2020 to the third quarter of 2022, Globe built 3,600 new sites and connected 1.4 million fiber-to-the-home lines. In all, it served a cumulative 124.5 million wireless and fixed line subscribers in 2020 and 2021,” the company said.

“In comparison, before the streamlined permitting process, Globe was able to build just 500 towers in 2018 and 1,100 in 2019,” it added.

The Office of the President had yet to reply to a request for comment at the deadline. — Arjay L. Balinbin