28 July 2020 – Following the President’s call for better telecommunications services in the country during the 5th State of the Nation’s Address on Monday, 27 July 2020, the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) formed a special task force to monitor and strictly enforce the compliance of agencies, particularly of Local Government Units, with the recent issuance of Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 01-2020 which drastically streamlines the permitting process for construction of Telco Towers.

Last July 23, ARTA and DICT led the signing of the JMC along with DILG, DHSUD, DOTr-CAAP, DOH-FDA, and DPWH-NBO. The said government departments and agencies are involved in the permitting process for the telco towers. From an average of 8 months, the processing time has been cut down to approximately 16 days across the different NGAs and LGUs. It also reduced the previous numbers of documentary requirements required from 86 to just 35.

“ARTA and DICT, under program NEHEMIA, has been steadily coordinating and steering the different agencies together to come up with a streamlined framework for securing permits for the construction of Telco Towers. Accordingly, we need at least 50,000 additional towers for the country in order to be competitive with our ASEAN neighbors. The effective implementation of the provisions and streamlined processes of this JMC is the key that could free us from the turtle pace interconnectivity problem of the country,” ARTA Director General Jeremiah Belgica said.

According to the ARTA czar, the Special Task force under ARTA will monitor the compliance of the different government agencies with the provisions of the JMC, especially by the LGUs. LGUs, according to reports and information gathered, are notorious in imposing burdensome requirements and huge fees at various stages of the permitting process. This has hindered numerous Telco Tower projects across the country. DG Belgica said that “this can no longer be tolerated.” He added that if upon investigation, ARTA finds that a particular government official or employee is causing the delay despite the clear provisions in the JMC, cases will be filed.

Section 15 of R.A. 11032 or the “Ease of Doing Business and Government Service Delivery Act of 2018” provides for a mere 7 working days processing time for all NGAs and LGUs involved in the Telco Tower construction permitting processes. Failure to act within the prescribed processing time subjects a complete application to be automatically approved by law and exposes all involved employees, including the head of the office or department, to a possible 6-month suspension for the first offense and a penalty of dismissal and imprisonment for the second offense.

In the coming days, ARTA shall be meeting with the different telco companies, tower companies, and other private stakeholders in the telecommunications industry to further encourage partnership with the private sector in the battle against red tape in the telco industry. ARTA assures the private sector of its unwavering commitment in the ease of doing business. However, ARTA is asking for the help of the public to not engage in any corrupt practices, otherwise they too shall be penalized accordingly.