Rep. Victor Yap (2nd District of Tarlac), Chairman of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology, has urged the government to fast-track the drafting and implementation of the common tower policy, which aims to improve and bring down the cost of mobile phone services in the country.
The common tower policy seeks to address the needed 50,000 cell towers in the Philippines for the country to become competitive in the region in providing quality communication services to the public.
Currently, the Philippines has 18,000 existing towers, which translates to 4,000 people per cell site. Vietnam has 70,000 towers with 900 people per cell site.
According to Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the ideal per capita per tower is 1,000.
Under the proposed common tower policy, tower companies will build and deploy communication infrastructure that will be leased to telecommunication companies (telcos). Instead of building and using their cell towers exclusively, telcos will share their tower assets with each other.
Telcos have blamed the bureaucracy–which takes up to nine months to secure over 25 permits–for the delay in putting up cell sites.
"Enough with the excuses and the blame game. Let's put our heads together to come out with a policy that will lessen the cost for the consumers," Yap said during Monday's hearing.
Shared passive infrastructure, such as cell towers, through this policy, would cut back telcos' expenses and subscribers would benefit from this.
All three telcos–Globe, Smart and Mislatel–present at the hearing expressed their support to the proposed common tower policy.
Rio said that while the DICT is still finalizing the policy, it has signed memoranda of understanding with 19 common tower providers, recognizing them as "capable tower providers."
The DICT secretary stressed that the telcos would be the ones to select from the initial list of 19 tower companies. He called the selection process a "pure private business transaction."
Once the telcos have selected, the DICT will then sign a memorandum of agreement with the chosen tower companies to ensure that the government will help facilitate and hasten the issuance of permits to build the towers.
Rio also noted that the department is currently working closely with the telcos to identify 1,000 sites where the common towers will be built in the next two to three months.
The common towers will also be used by the government to implement the Free WiFi Law.
"You should prioritize far-flung areas so they can also enjoy the benefits of having reliable and affordable internet access that could lead to economic development," Yap said.
The DICT secretary said the department's target is to have the 50,000 towers in seven to 10 years.