Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid issued Senate Resolution No. 414 to investigate the status of the Philippines’ Internet connectivity in the wake of the country’s shift to the new normal caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
“The Internet will become the new capital of offices, businesses, and schools so they can continue to operate in the wake of the crisis brought about by COVID-19,” said Lapid.
The senator pointed out that the Philippines has “not fared well” in terms of Internet speed compared to other countries.
“It’s truly frustrating that the Internet service here in the Philippines, especially in comparison with neighboring countries, which have stepped up in terms of this aspect. One of the things being looked at as the reason for slow Internet connection is the lack of infrastructure,” Lapid added.
He cited the 2019 data compiled by Tower Xchange, showing that the Philippines has only about 20,000 cell sites compared to the over 90,000 cell sites in Vietnam.
According to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the government planned to put up an additional 50,000 cell sites within seven to ten years, which can cater to over 100 million Internet users.
Last year, the DICT signed a memorandum of understanding with 19 local and international tower companies. These firms expressed their interest to help the government meet its targeted number of towers. However, only four of these companies have secured permits to operate.
Globe Telecom and PLDT Inc. have invested in putting about 18,000 cell towers across the country, with plans to construct over a thousand more this year.
DITO Telecommunity promised to create 2,500 cell sites by July but it announced to have another delay in its commercial rollout. The third telco player has constructed about 600 cell sites so far.
Telcos have been blaming red tape as one of the main reasons causing the slow deployment of cell towers. Local government units (LGUs) and homeowners associations (HOAs) contribute to the delay of cell site construction in the country as they require telcos to go through a complex process and deny entry of telcos to their jurisdictions due to various reasons.
Part of the process of putting up a cell site in one area, the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) Resolution No. R-626 requires about ten permits to secure locational clearance for cell towers. From ten, required permits can go up to twenty-five (25).
These concerns should have been addressed by both the national and local governments many years before the COVID-19 crisis surfaced.
“This is one of the topics that should be tackled by lawmakers so that we can find solutions because it is not only now that we need a fast Internet connection. The Internet is now being considered as one of the primary needs of Filipinos,” Lapid stressed.