LGUs scramble to approve telco permits after Duterte tirade
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - August 11, 2020 - 12:10am

MANILA, Philippines — After receiving a tongue-lashing from President Rodrigo Duterte for the sluggish processing of permits to build new cellular towers, local government units immediately approved over 1,000 applications from telecom companies, the Department of Interior and Local Government said late Monday night.

In a televised Cabinet meeting, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told Duterte that out of 1,930 applications submitted by telcos to 80 LGUs this year, 1,502 of them were already approved.

This was after processing time was cut to an average of 16 days from 241 days previously. To do this, some licenses are no longer required.

"In the coming months, we will monitor the pending applications and we will make sure these will be approved. If they're rejected, we will know why," Año said in Filipino. 

In his penultimate State of the Nation Address last month, Duterte blasted incumbents Globe Telecom Inc. and PLDT Inc. for their supposed poor service and threatened to seize their assets if they don't shape up.

His animosity toward the duopoly prompted him to begin an accelerated bidding for a third telco player, where China Telecom-backed Dito Telecommunity emerged as a winner. But even Dito, where his tycoon friend Dennis Uy has major investment, also encountered the same bureaucracy, forcing it to push back its technical launch supposedly held early July .

Duterte later redirected his anger from telco giants to LGUs after finding out that the country's telco sector has been plagued with excessive government red tape, which hampers the construction of much-needed telco infrastructure.

In addition to a third player, the government is also behind plans to build common telco towers, which aim to increase cellular sites in the Philippines and speed up telco connection.

Editor's Note: A unit under PLDT's media conglomerate has a majority stake in Philstar Global Corp., which runs Philstar.com. This article was independently produced following editorial guidelines.

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