Millions of farmers, workers to lose SIM access if registration not extended, says KMP

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Millions of farmers, workers to lose SIM access if registration not extended, says KMP
Farmers in Nueva Ecija harvested and sold sacks of onion at P50 per kilogram on a Thursday afternoon, March 30, 2023. Meanwhile, with the farmgate price of onions dropping to P47 per kilo, a farmers’ group urged President Bongbong Marcos in early March to intervene as farmers fear that the price will plummet to P10 per kilo.
Philstar.com / Anj Andaya

MANILA, Philippines — Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) is appealing to the government to extend the April 26 deadline of the mandatory SIM registration to prevent the disenfranchisement of millions from using their mobile devices in the coming days.

Telco companies SMART Communications and TNT on April 18 reiterated its support for the extension of the SIM registration deadline after only 55.1% of their subscribers (36.5 million) have registered in line with Republic Act 11934.

Ayala-led Globe also supported the call after the company admitted this month that it has yet to touch the halfway mark just days before the deadline. Like SMART, Globe has millions of subscribers.

"Surely, millions and millions of farmers, fisherfolk and people in the countryside have yet to register their SIM," according to KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos in Filipino on Saturday.

"The threat of them losing their access to their SIM and other social media is a direct attack to their right to be heard, be informed and communicate."

Digital Pinoys national campaigner Ronald Gustilo earlier this week called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to suspend the implementation of the SIM Registration law after the Department of Information and Communications Technology said that there is yet to be any extension to speak of.

Gustilo said that many still could not register their SIM cards because of lack of valid identification cards, connectivity issues and gadgets to use for the registration process.

Under the law, the registration process could be extended to another 120 days. However, the DICT said that there is "no rush" to extend the process.

Just this week, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual noted that he is in favor of extending the registration period, saying that it would be a "major concern" should not all SIM cards be registered. However, the National Telecommunications Commission last Thursday said that the government is not aiming to have 100% registration of SIM cards nationwide

In other countries like Indonesia and India, public telecommunication entities are given 1 to 2 years to register. At present, there are 160 million SIM subscribers nationwide.

While Marcos signed RA 11934 in the hopes of preventing text scams and crimes involving mobile devices, progressive groups earlier stated that privacy issues are inherent within the law.

KMP likewise pointed to the massive data breach that affected over 1.2 million "leaked profiles" from the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation and Civil Service Commission, stating that even the identity and information of registered SIM subscribers are still at risk.

Many registered mobile users to this day continue to receive spam and scam messages through their phones.

KMP earlier joined PAMALAKAYA, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Bayan Muna party-list and many others to ask the Supreme Court to declare RA 11934 as unconstitutional, stating that it infringes many fundamental freedoms.

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