Difficult situation

HIDDEN AGENDA - The Philippine Star

While residents of some exclusive villages have complained about poor telecommunications services, they seem to realize that the problem is of their own making.

According to Globe Telecom chief technology and information officer Gil Genio, they should not complain if they prevent telecommunications companies from setting cell sites or smaller outdoor distributed antenna systems (ODAs). 

The range of a typical cell site, for which it can provide good signal for data, is only around 700 meters within the actual site. Genio said this means that they need several cell sites inside these villages for residents to get good service.

The telcos have been citing the difficulty of putting up cell sites in the country, explaining it takes so much work and time, not to mention fees, in order to put up just one cell site. 

Meanwhile, it takes only one resident complaining to the local government or barangay to prevent the cell site from being put up.

Genio noted that there is a tremendous amount of resistance from homeowners and it is a very difficult situation for service providers to overcome.

Homeowners associations (HOAs) oppose cell site applications mainly due to alleged health hazards coming from the cell sites.  This is despite the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) attesting to the fact that cell sites have no adverse effects on human health.

The Department of Health has also ensured that the Philippine standard of thermal (heat) emissions from local cell sites is at least four times lower than what has been approved globally

Genio pointed out that the radiation from the handset is actually higher than that of the cell site, and what many people don’t realize is that this handset radiation increases the farther your handset is from the cell site.

He explained that the farther the phone is from the cell site, the stronger the power output required for the phone to get adequate signal.

Genio emphasized that they are not asking for any subsidy, just help to facilitate the issuance of these permits that they are required to obtain before putting up these infrastructure.

Against farmers’ interest

Some government officials seem to lack the empathy, and worse, appear to be indifferent and even are acting against the interest of the constituents that they are tasked to serve.

Members of the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (DAMARBDEVCO), a Davao del Norte-based group of agrarian reform beneficiaries, are claiming that Department of Agrarian Reform undersecretaries Marcos Risonar and David Erro have told them during a recent meeting to discuss their agribusiness venture agreement (AVA) with the Marsman Estate Plantation Inc. (MEPI) to just attack with bolos representatives of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) if the banana farms they are currently tilling are foreclosed by the bank in the event their AVA with MEPI gets permanently revoked. 

Other beneficiaries meanwhile said DAR officials are indifferent and lack concern when asked what would happen to the more than 1,800 ARBs of MEPI and their 8,000 dependents once the AVA with the company is revoked.

The meeting was held to discuss whether the AVA between DAMARDEVCO and MEPI should be continued and to explore the options for ARBs who will be displaced if the agreement is eventually revoked.

We were told that the land being tilled by the ARBs inside MEPI’s farm in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte was donated to them by the company as part of the terms of their AVA. The ARBs also receive lease rentals, compensation and other benefits from MEPI that are considered among the highest in the agriculture sector.

If the AVA is revoked, the donation itself is also revoked and the government must pay MEPI more than P1 billion representing the company’s just compensation for the land it had earlier donated to the ARBs. The ARBs, in turn, would have to pay LBP for the land that they already owned had the AVA not been revoked.

According to several farmers, DAR officials tried to dupe them by saying that the AVA with MEPI has already been cancelled when the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) chaired by President Duterte has not yet rendered a final decision on the motions for reconsideration that had been filed earlier by MEPI and DAMARDEVCO.

Bidding questioned

Government’s procurement of P1.11 billion worth of equipment for its night fighting system (NFS) project which is meant to enhance the troops’ fighting capability at the battlefront is under fire.

Experts in military strategic armaments are criticizing the Department of National Defense loose application of stringent bidding rules to favor a particular bidder.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the Commission on Audit have launched their own investigations following media reports regarding this particular controversy.

The project involved the supply of 4,500 units each of night vision monoculars (NVM) and infrared aiming devices (IRAD), and 500 pieces of laser zeroing devices (LZD).

Five companies namely Aselsan Elektronik Sanayi Ve Ticaret, Theon Sensors, SA Nightline, Newcon and  ATN took part in the bidding which was won by the Turkey-based Aselsan.

The other bidders claim about lack of transparency and level playing field in the screening and selection of the bidders for the NVM package. They explained that each NVM contains an image intensifier tube (IIT) whose halo diameter size determines the gadget’s level of performance.

The bidders specifically questioned the BAC’s requirement that only NVMs with a maximum halo diameter of 0.85 mm were qualified for the bidding, effectively excluding American manufacturers of IITs since US regulations only allow the export of tubes with a minimum halo diameter of 0.85mm.

Under the bidding rules, prospective provider of NVMs should be able to source only IITs having an exact halo size of 0.85mm, which, according to the bidders, is almost impossible considering the allowable manufacturing variances for the equipment.

They said there were only a few IIT manufacturers worldwide who can supply the tubes to NVM integrators,  one of them being the US-based Harris Corp., reputedly the biggest IIT supplier worldwide. But even Harris said the tubes cannot be mass produced to an exact halo measurement with zero margin of error.

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