THE GOVERNMENT is hoping more common towers will be built in the next few years to improve network coverage. — BW FILE PHOTO

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has eased the documentary requirements for common tower providers as the country remains in a state of public health emergency due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II issued Department Circular No. 011 on June 8 that relaxes the registration requirements for firms seeking to build telecommunication towers during the pandemic.

The new circular allows documentary submissions, in relation to application for registration as an “independent tower company,” that are “not notarized, authenticated, or true copy certified.”

Tower companies may also submit application documents to the DICT via e-mail.

Electronic documents must be accompanied by a cover letter “e-signed” by the company’s authorized representative.

Applications for registration and those who were registered as independent tower companies based on the provisions of this circular will be required to submit the “original, notarized, authenticated, and certified true copies” of their application documents within 30 days after the state of public health emergency is lifted.

The DICT may invalidate the certificate of registration issued to a tower company if it fails to submit such documents.

In an e-mailed statement on Monday, the DICT said it targets to reduce by 52% the permitting requirements for the construction of common towers.

Mr. Honasan signed on May 29 the policy guidelines on the co-location and sharing of telecommunication towers for cell sites.

Under the rules, tower companies engaged in the business of building or operating one or more shared towers must secure a certificate of registration from the DICT. Existing telecommunication companies with legislative franchise and certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) are exempt from the requirement.

Tower companies should have relevant construction experience, registration, license, and financial capacity, equivalent to a category A contractor or higher of the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board.

The department also said it has been “actively collaborating” with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and other government agencies in streamlining permitting requirements and procedures for tower companies.

“With streamlined procedures, we expect to speed up the rollout of common towers which will help us achieve our overall objective of enhancing wireless network coverage and the quality of ICT services across the entire country,” Mr. Honasan said in the statement.

To address this matter, the DICT said it expects to sign a joint memorandum circular with ARTA, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Interior and Local Government, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development “within the next months.”

Former Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. told BusinessWorld in a phone interview last month there were at least “27 requirements” that telecommunication companies must comply with to get permits to build cell sites.

He said only about five of those requirements are the responsibility of the National Government.

Only about 400 cell sites were built 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.