Globe seeks gov’t clarity on common tower policy

Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Ayala-led Globe Telecom Inc. wants clarity from the government with regards to the direction of the common tower initiative, saying that uncertainty in rules could impact decision making of investors.

“Sometimes we hear things like there’s no more tower policy, yet at the same time, they’re calling another meeting to discuss it. So I think it is good to let things settle down,” Globe president and chief executive officer Ernest Cu said.

Cu said the government should finalize rules, whether through an actual common tower policy or not, to provide involved stakeholders a clearer direction moving forward.

“The rules themselves are still in flux. They’re considering this, they’re considering that. It’s hard to enter into a transaction when the rules change. It’s hard to go into a business when the rules are uncertain,” he said.

“I’m just saying let’s finalize what it is. Is there a tower policy? Is there none? If there is one, let’s finalize it as well,” Cu said.

Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary for operations Eliseo Rio in an interview last month said the agency no longer sees the immediate need to come out with a common tower policy given that the government’s infrastructure initiative has already jumpstarted.

“We might not need this policy, but instead (we need) an executive order from the President mandating all local government units to make cell sites development of national interest so they must give their permits,” Rio said.

Asked to comment also on the matter, PLDT chief revenue officer Al Panlilo said: “At the end of the day it becomes a commercial discussion. If it makes sense on a commercial standpoint, then it’s okay.”

The government previously targeted to finalize and issue as early as November last year the tower sharing policy which would serve as a comprehensive rules and guidelines governing passive telecommunications infrastructure sharing.

Globe general legal counsel Froilan Castelo said the situation is on status quo, but a draft policy that was pushed by presidential adviser on economic affairs and information technology communications Ramon Jacinto remains pending.

The draft common tower policy which was presented last year met oppositions from tower providers, telcos, and other stakeholders as it tried to limit to a maximum of two the independent tower companies that will be registered by the NTC in the first four years of the program’s implementation.

It also prohibited telcos from building their own towers, as the deployment of all telecommunications towers shall be performed only by the NTC-registered tower companies, except when it is unable to do so despite the request from the telco operators.

With the delays encountered in finalizing the common tower policy, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) published last May the rules on the so-called “accelerated roll-out of common towers,” which will be a proof of concept to serve as the basis of a more comprehensive rules and guidelines governing passive telecommunications infrastructure sharing.

Globe, for its part, has already signed common tower agreements with the tandem of ISOC Infrastructure Inc. of Megawide Construction Corp. co-founder Michael Cosiquien and Malaysia-based tower giant edotco Group Sdn. Bhd., as well as the tandem Aboitiz InfraCapital and Frontier Tower Associates Philippines.

“We continue to talk to the rest of the potential tower companies and we are open to signing more MOUs. They need to share with us where they will seriously build the towers for us. If there’s a match, then we will proceed to signing,” Globe chief finance officer Rizza Maniego-Eala said.

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