SOME 428 applications for cell tower permits remain pending with local governments this year, while 1,502 have been approved, Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año said late Monday after meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Ang natira na lang po ay 428 na pending application at ito po ay babantayan namin para siguradong hindi po magtatagal dahil sa lumang sistema, 241 days, 19 permits at saka 86 document requirements (What’s left now are 428 pending applications and  we are closely monitoring them to make sure they don’t take excessively long because under the old system, tower approvals took 241 days, 19 permits, and 86 documentary requirements),” Mr. Año said at a video briefing before the government’s coronavirus task force.

He said that the applicants are “Touch Mobile, Globe Telecommunication, Smart Communication, and Dito Telecommunity Corp.” and that the Local Government Units (LGUs) with pending applications totaled 80 – 55 provinces and 25 cities.

Local-government approvals have been identified as a key source of delay by telecommunications companies, which are trying to improve tower numbers to raise the standard of service in the wireless market.

Mr. Duterte said in the meeting that waiting over 200 days for a permit approval is “unacceptable,” according to the transcript of the briefing.

The President in his annual address to Congress threatened telecommunications companies with expropriation of service standards do not improve, but in a subsequent meeting with industry officials, the LGUs were identified as a bottleneck.

Last week the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) said it will deem as approved all tower permits that take longer than seven days.

ARTA derives its authority from Republic Act (RA) No. 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.

The law sets for government agencies approval deadlines of three working days for simple transactions, seven working days for complex transactions, and 20 working days for highly technical applications.

In applying the seven-day standard, ARTA appears to have classified tower applications as “complex transactions” and signaled its intent to enforce the provisions of RA No. 11032. — Gillian M. Cortez