Saturday, October 14, 2023

PLDT, Smart push for tighter collaboration with HOAs, gov't for faster telco rollout

Leading integrated telco network PLDT Inc (PLDT) and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc (Smart) are pushing for closer engagement with homeowners' associations (HOA) for a more seamless rollout of telco facilities nationwide.

In a recent forum organized by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development through the Homeowners Association and Community Development Bureau (DHSUD-HOACDB) in partnership with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), HOA representatives from Metro Manila and nearby regions met with representatives from government and telcos to discuss issues and concerns around cell sites, as well as the policies and permitting processes covering the rollout of telco facilities within residential communities.

The forum is the first major rollout of the recently signed Executive Order No. 32 entitled “Streamlining the Permitting Process for the Construction of Telecommunications and Internet Infrastructure.”

“Digitalization has simplified the way we provide government services to the public. This is why forums such as this are a good starting point in supporting and realizing the vision that President Marcos has for our country, and that is to build a Digital Philippines,” said DHSUD Secretary Jose Rizalino Acuzar.

Anthony Louen R. Fernandez, Senior Manager from Smart's Regulatory Affairs office, likewise emphasized the importance of digitalization for communities.

“We need connectivity in all aspects of our lives--inside our homes, at work, and in school. We also turn to the internet to accomplish our chores and errands, as well as for rest and recreation,” Fernandez said, adding that connectivity also enables various emergency communications channels in times of disaster, such as the Emergency Cell Broadcast System (ECBS) and emergency hotlines such as 911.

“To deliver these benefits, we must have enough number of cell sites in strategic locations to cover the entire country,” he said.

Fernandez also presented a video addressing concerns about the safety of cell sites, backing points made by representatives from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who also joined the forum.

This engagement is aligned with PLDT and Smart's support for the Government's nationwide digitalization thrust to bring the benefits of the internet to more communities through the continuous enhancement of the Group's integrated fixed and wireless networks, and forms part of the Group's commitment as one of the founding members of the government-mandated Presidential Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) under the Digital Infrastructure Pillar, represented by its President and CEO Alfredo S. Panlilio.

Echoing the national government's line that digitalization is no longer a luxury but a necessity, ARTA also hailed DHSUD for spearheading this pioneering effort, as well as cited the efforts of partner agencies to finalize the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of EO No. 32.

“The presence of our stakeholders from local government, private sector, and then the telco industry is a signal that everyone is very eager to work with each other. This is no longer just a whole-of-government effort. It's already a whole-of-society effort. Together, we can bridge the digital divide and see a Philippines where everyone will be able to participate in the digital economy,” said ARTA Director Marbida L. Marbida.

Representatives from the Department of Health (DOH), the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and telecommunications and tower companies were present in the said forum.

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