Update on building code, broadband facilities sought in Congress

Update on building code, broadband facilities sought in Congress
Image of cell sites.
BusinessWorld / File

MANILA, Philippines – The amendment of Presidential Decree No. 1096, or the National Building Code of the Philippines, is being sought in the House of Representatives, noting its “outdated” policies as people now operate a lot in the digital space.

According to Tarlac 2nd District Rep. Christian Yap, the building code must be updated with the inclusion of adequate space for broadband facilities to put more emphasis on the necessity of electronic equipment facilities.

Under House Bill No. 900, the bill mandates building permits to conform with the design, which satisfies additional electronics requirements for multi-dwelling buildings, commercial buildings, government and office buildings, public and private schools, and government and private hospitals.

"Given the technological advancements, especially the proliferation of electronic equipment facilities within these building premises, the four-decade old law must be updated to make the standards of buildings appropriate and more relevant," Yap said in his explanatory note on the bill.

The average broadband internet speed in the Philippines is currently ranked 41st in the world, according to the Telecom Review. This is allegedly still a big problem because the speed is frequently inconsistent and merely limited.

2021 data from the National Telecommunications Commission showed that there are more than 22,000 cell sites in the country, less than a third of Vietnam's 90,000, and they are shared between three telcos.

Data from the Department of Information and Communications Technology showed that 65 percent of the country's population is still not connected to the internet. 

According to the Statista Research Department, an international research company, 77.81% of the Filipino population will only have an internet connection by 2028 in its current phase.

"Information and communications technology, or ICT, is necessary to enhance good governance and key public services such as education and public health and safety. Thus, as we recognize today the vital role of ICT in nation-building, it is high time that we ensure that our buildings are capacitated towards achieving universal access to quality, reliable, and secure ICT services," the lawmaker added.

A similar measure was also introduced in Congress by Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda to remove the leases of telecommunication companies and treat internet service as a human right.

House Bill No. 8534 seeks to revise the National Building Code to recognize broadband connectivity in the same way as water and electricity, which do not require lease fees in their facilities.

Salceda argued that, in Metro Manila alone, around a million people who live in 160,000 condominium units need fast and reliable internet connection, and will benefit from better internet connection, if the measure is passed.

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Philippines has the lowest coverage rates of telecom towers in the Southeast Asian region and will need an additional 60,000 towers by 2031 in far-flung areas.

Currently, 767 buildings across the country have accepted the zero-lease initiative, with Makati City having the highest number at 105, Taguig with 91, and Quezon City with 57 under Globe Telecommunications. 

Areas in North and South Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, on the other hand, have yet to pick up the pace with the zero-lease for buildings to help with providing better internet access.

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