NTC extends permit renewal

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    The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has extended the renewal of all existing telecom and broadcast permits, certificates and licenses until the last working day of December 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The NTC issued Memorandum Order No. 14-07-2020 on July 29, 2020, which details the interim guidelines in the renewal of certificates, permits or licenses.

    The memorandum stated that all existing certificates, permits and licenses to operate radio communications equipment, networks and facilities, public (telecom), broadcast, government or private in various radio services which are expiring in the current year shall remain valid and may be renewed on or before the last working day of December 2020, without penalties or surcharges.

    By 2021, NTC will begin imposing penalties for late renewal of permits and certificates.

    The agency cited mobility issues, particularly in areas under enhanced or general community quarantine, as the reason for the extension.

    “Due to expediency reasons and as there are still mobility limitation issues in many regions around the country, Public Telecommunications Entities may file/submit applications for renewal of permits and/or licenses at the NTC Central Office,” NTC said.

    PLDT Inc. wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc., through its legal and regulatory team, worked with the NTC to ensure Philippine operators have enough time to secure their renewals amid the pandemic.

    “We appreciate this assistance provided by Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba and the NTC in dealing with these difficulties created by the pandemic,” Alfredo Panlilio, PLDT chief revenue officer and Smart president and chief executive officer (CEO), said in a statement.

    “Hand-in-hand with the government, we will be able to surmount the challenges presented by COVID-19 and continue improving communications services for Filipinos nationwide,” Panlilio added.

    Meanwhile, Globe Telecom Inc. appealed to local government units (LGUs) to rationalize fees and expedite the processing of permits to enable the industry to build the infrastructure needed to improve connectivity in the country.

    The appeal comes at the heels of his face-to-face meeting with President Duterte in Malacañang last July 30 to inform the president of the telco industry’s challenges.

    “Each year, we make massive investments in billions of pesos to make our network perform at par with other countries. However, we can only go as far as what our existing infrastructure can give. If we want robust connectivity, we really need to build more cellsites and roll out more fiber to homes. The current permitting process and fee structures simply do not allow us to do these,” said Ernest Cu, Globe president and CEO.

    “This is a time when all industry stakeholders need to work together for the benefit of the consuming public. Connectivity is now an essential need especially during this pandemic. Let’s turn a new leaf and help enable the industry to build,” Cu added.

    In the meeting, Cu sought the help of President Duterte regarding the debilitating process of getting permits to build cellsites and towers which takes at least eight months.

    Cu showed the president and other officials present at the meeting the numerous permits Globe needed to secure to build a cellsite tower – 29 to 35 permits in all.

    Interior Secretary Eduardo Año informed the President that the recently signed Joint Memorandum Circular No. 01-2020 from concerned government agencies will make the issuance of permits a lot easier, with streamlining of permits to reduce processing time to a maximum of 20 days.

    Globe welcomed the new development and response from the President.

    “We are hopeful we can get more cooperation from LGUs and HOAs (homeowners associations). As Filipinos adapt to the new normal, having ample ICT infrastructure is particularly important to improve internet speed, increase coverage and capacity for data hungry customers. In addition, having many cellsites is critical to successfully roll out advanced technologies like 5G services in the country,” Cu said.

    Globe recently announced its expansion plans in various provinces all over the Philippines to meet the growing demand for more connectivity and bring the digital experience to more Filipinos especially in the countryside.