‘Clock is ticking’
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - August 5, 2020 - 12:00am

In a pre-taped live public address to the Filipino nation aired last July 31, President Rodrigo Duterte was in obvious jovial mood. While presiding the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), the Chief Executive cracked jokes more than usual. Every now and then, President Duterte made wisecracks that sent his Cabinet members to hushed chortles.

At one point, President Duterte even played with the motion-activated dispenser that spouts alcohol mist. He was visibly fascinated to the mist dispenser that he brought it near his face. It spewed out mist and his mouth caught some of it. But nobody laughed. But it sent the close-in aides from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) to quickly jump into action, thinking there was a sabotage of the dispenser.

Perhaps, it was his way to keep everyone awake in his usual late night IATF meeting at Malacanang and capped by his “talk to the Filipino people” to wind it down.

But in an unscheduled Sunday night public address, a stern-faced President Duterte was visibly on a warpath again. This time, the 75-year old President was holding on to a pen that he usually does every time we see him in his angry moods. He twiddles with the pen on his fingers and points its tip to some unseen thing as if he’s wanting to use it to skewer someone, or something to stress his points.

Waxing sentimental, the President noted anew he is already on the “last mile” of his term ending in June, 2022. It was during his penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 27 when President Duterte first mentioned this.

Digressing from his prepared speech to echo the public disappointments over the services of telecommunications companies (telcos), the President related with his SONA audience his experience on mobile phone connections of both Smart Telecom and Globe Telecom. The President poked fun over the woman’s voice prompt on mobile phones that the called “party can not be reached.” “Eh nasaan pala pumunta yung yawah na ‘yon?” (rough translation: “Goodness, where did that woman go?”). By a way of a joke, the President told them he wants a clear line by “December 25” during which he wishes “to talk with Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.” Ostensibly, this is Christmas day.

On a more serious tone, the President warned the two giant telcos in our country to improve their services by end of this year. “Because if you are not ready to improve, I might just as well close all of you and we revert back to the line telephone at kukunin ko ‘yan, i-expropriate ko sa gobyerno,” the President sternly warned. “I will find a way. I will talk to Congress and find a way how to do it,” he added.

The former Davao City Mayor reiterated his standing order to all government agencies, including the local government units (LGUs) to make sure the processing of permits and licenses for these needed telco towers will not go beyond three working days.

The putting up of additional towers is one of the crucial infrastructure needed by the country’s telco system not only to improve voice or call services. The expansion of towers is especially more urgent with the advent of the 2019 coronavirus disease, or COVID-19 pandemic that have given rise to the importance of online internet connectivity for data transmissions.

While there is no anti-COVID vaccine yet, online learning is vigorously pursued in many private and public schools. The electronic commerce (e-commerce) has become a booming business endeavors, especially by the growing number of micro, medium and small enterprises (MMSEs) in the buy-and-sale through the internet. The COVID-19 contagion has also served to boost the business of international online shopping companies like Lazada, Shoppee, Zalora, etc.

Several days after the SONA, Globe Telecom president Ernest Cu was invited to a dialogue with President Duterte at Malacanang. Cu was later invited to sit down at the President’s regular meeting with the IATF that same  Thursday night. Relating his earlier dialogue, President Duterte disclosed to his Cabinet officials attending the IATF meeting, he jokingly threatened Cu “to hang you in one of your towers” if the top Globe Telecom executive won’t be able to improve their services to its customers.

“Sabi niya, ‘Mayor, you cannot do that because there is no tower. The local governments are all f****** it up. That’s why. So saan mo ako bitayin? Sa lubi (coconut tree)?’ Sabi ko, ‘Tama ka, Erns,” President half-smilingly narrated their exchange.

At this point, Cu went to narrating the experience of Globe Telecom with the red tape and bureaucracy that have be-devilled telcos like them to get local permits and licenses as the major cause of delay in the building of telco towers.

“We are suffering from many, many years of this, before your administration, many administrations,” Cu rued.

The Globe, like other telcos, Cu pointed out, must secure 25 to as many as 29 permits. Thus, it takes them almost eight months to get all of these, not to mention having to pay as many miscellaneous fees, various types of tower fees, and even “special use” permit.

Without these bottlenecks in the bureaucracy, Cu cited, both Globe and Smart could each built as many as 1,500 towers in one year and can “triple and even quadruple” this number. “Kung nag-apply kami ng 5,000 towers times 28 or 30 permits na lang, ilang libo hong permit ang kukunin namin para lang makapag-umpisa,” Cu deplored.

It reminded me of the story shared with me by Yoly Crisanto, senior vice president for corporate communications of Globe Telecom when then Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada summoned all City Hall officials in charge of permits and licenses to process right at his office the Globe application to put up their tower in Binondo.

It’s a matter of political will to discipline the bureaucracy if only everyone is on the same page.

The President reminded them “the clock is ticking” for these LGUs to put out these telco towers permits and licenses within 72 hours. So we wait.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with