DILG to cut telco tower permit process to less than a month

The national government has ordered to “streamline” the application process for permits to build telecommunication towers, reducing it from about 7 months to “less than a month,” the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said in a statement on Saturday, August 1.

The agency issued an order shortening the list of permits telcos need to secure from different government offices. This list no longer includes written consent from homeowners associations of private subdivisions or condominiums.

Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to shut down telcos Globe and Smart during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 27, Globe president and CEO Ernest Cu pointed out the tedious and often cumbersome process of applying for government permits to build common telecommunication towers.

Cu attended the government’s COVID-19 task force meeting with Duterte on Thursday night, July 30, portions of which were broadcast the next morning. In the meeting, Cu said telcos had suffered “many, many years” of red tape when securing permits from different agencies and local governments, preventing them from building more towers.

Telcos needed to secure 25 to 29 permits for every tower, pay various miscellaneous fees, and the process at times took 8 months to complete, Cu added.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año then said the DILG, the Anti-Red Tape Authority, and other national government agencies had issued a joint memorandum circular (JMC) to address the problems Cu had mentioned.

“Dati po, inaabot ng 200 days ‘yung pag-apply ng permit. Dito po sa bagong JMC namin kasama ang lahat ng ahensya at mga local government units, sabay-sabay na ang pag-process. Makukuha po lahat ng permit in less than a month,” Año explained.

(It used to take 200 days to apply for a permit. Through our new JMC with all agencies and local government units, the process will be consolidated. All permits will be secured in less than a month.)

“Dati po kailangan ng homeowners association resolution, kailangan pa ng Sangguniang Bayan resolution. Ngayon, wala na po 'yan. ‘Di na po ‘yan kailangan. Lahat po ng steps na nagpapabagal sa proseso ay inalis na natin,” he added.

(It used to require homeowners association and city council resolutions. Now, there’s no need for those. We’ve done away with all the steps that used to slow down the process.)

Government agencies and local governments are no longer allowed to require documents besides what the DILG order states.

Among the reduced requirements, according to Año, are:

  • barangay clearance
  • Unified Application Form for Locational Permit
  • Fire Safety Evaluation Certificate
  • Building Permit
  • property documents from owners or occupants of registered or untitled lands
  • “select ancillary permit and accessory permit requirements”

The locational clearance, barangay clearance, Fire Safety Evaluation Certificate from the Bureau of Fire Protection, and Building Permit shall be issued together within 7 working days, exclusive of the period of appeals, Año said.

In cases when a local government is unable to issue a Location Clearance, the telco may apply for it at the regional office of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), he added.

“Applications for locational clearance, barangay clearance, Fire Safety Evaluation Certificate, and Building Permit shall proceed without need of a written consent from the homeowners association or the condominium owner, among others,” the DILG statement said, quoting Año.

If the telco proposes to build the on privately-owned land in a residential subdivision, it must “certify that there is no other available or suitable site within the coverage area,” the DILG added.

Other agencies that signed the JMC were the DHSUD, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Public Works and Highways, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the Department of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration.

In his SONA, Duterte threatened to shut down and expropriate Globe and Smart if they did not improve on their services by December. A 3rd telco, Dito Telecommunity owned by Duterte’s friend and supporter Dennis Uy, is poised to join the market in a few months. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.