The office of presidential adviser Ramon Jacinto, tasked to draft a policy on cell tower sharing, said the implementation of the guidelines would push through despite legal threats raised by the telco operators.
The statement was made as the government seeks to speed up the deployment of cell towers, the lack of which has been blamed by mobile operators Globe Telecom and Smart Communications for unreliable network signal in certain areas.
The rules became controversial because they sought to bar the telcos from building new towers and from taking any ownership in the designated tower builders and operators. The draft provisions raised the spectre of lawsuits, with the telcos calling the rules unconstitutional.
“Just because Globe and Smart say that our guidelines could be subject to legal challenges, it should not follow we should retreat from doing what is right to protect our consumers,” Jacinto said in the statement. “It is natural for the existing operators to protect their territory and dominance.”
The statement on Monday was prompted by recent announcements made by Department of Information and Communications Technology Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr., who had been critical of the rules given the threats these faced before the courts.
Jacinto said Rio, who is due to be replaced by Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, had no more say on the matter.
“As a matter of courtesy, outgoing Acting Secretary Rio should wait for incoming Secretary Honasan to assume his position before further commenting on the common tower policy,” Jacinto said in his statement.
He added that his office was working with the National Security Adviser to ensure that the shared towers would be secure. He said the NSA agreed with his view to initially limit the number of tower operators to just two players.
Jacinto also noted in the statement that the government holds “vast powers,” including ordering mobile operators to share their existing towers and requiring them to locate their sites in shared towers to be built by the designated tower companies.
The government wants third-party tower operators to build about 50,000 cell towers, adding to the existing 16,000 operated by PLDT, which operates Smart, and Globe. It said the new towers would be shared among the telcos, including the third telco player that was selected in late 2018.
PLDT and Globe earlier said the slow pace of cell tower rollout was due to delays caused by the cumbersome and inconsistent permitting process across the country.
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