Former Department of Information and Communications Technology undersecretary Eliseo Rio recently pointed out that solving the country’s internet woes and improving the quality of telco services is now in the hands of government, as the real problem is not the lack of investment from telcos, but the red tape which only government can solve.
Rio said the red tape problem is real and not simply a convenient excuse for the telcos. He said even foreign providers have started complaining that they rolled-out 10 times faster in other countries, but were slowed by the red tape in the Philippines.
“Aside from the billions of pesos poured in by telcos for infrastructure, non-telco companies, which were instrumental in putting up thousands of towers and thousands of kilometers of fiber optic cables in our neighboring countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand, are also complaining that they have not encountered so much red tape that is drastically slowing them down here in the Philippines,” he noted.
He pointed out that “illegal” red tape is not so much a problem as it is also encountered in other countries, but the problem is the “legal” red tape in the form of numerous permits that require so many signatures.
Aside from bogging down the upgrades, the numerous permits and recurring annual fees required by local government units are passed on by telcos to subscribers, making services more expensive.
Faced with these challenges, Ayala-led Globe Telecom has appealed to 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. Globe president Ernest Cu has sought the help of President Duterte regarding the process of getting permits to build cellsites and towers, which takes at least eight months and the processing of 29 to 35 permits.
A proper government needs to do more than just pass the buck to avoid accountability for undelivered promises. In the case of poor quality telecom services, it turns out threatening telcos with expropriation would be unnecessary if government had only worked harder at making it easier for those companies to expand and improve their services to the level that Filipinos expect and deserve.*