The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), in coordination with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Department of Health (DOH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), signed a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) to streamline requirements and reduce procedural delays in securing the necessary permits, licenses, clearances, certificates, and other requirements in the construction of Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructures (PTTI).

The official document was signed electronically through the use of digital signatures facilitated by the Philippine National Public Key Infrastructure (PNPKI) during the virtual launch held on 23 July 2020 through the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

The JMC complements DICT’s recently issued Department Circular (DC) No. 008, s. 2020, which provides for guidelines on Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure or the Common Tower Policy. The policy aims to encourage the growth and development of independent tower companies (ITCs) as a pioneering sector for the development of a robust ICT environment, in line with the overall objective of enhancing wireless network coverage and quality of ICT services across the country.

“The signing of the guidelines is a significant step in addressing the nation’s connectivity needs that have become more immediate because of the pandemic. The deployment of common towers, particularly in unserved and underserved areas, will improve not only internet condition, but also socio-economic welfare through ICT, in support of the President’s Balik Probinsya, Balik Pag-Asa Program,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

One of the key reasons for our country’s slow deployment rate of telecommunication towers has been the red tape associated with its permitting requirements. With the passing of this JMC, ITCs will be unburdened with the multiple permitting requirements and can focus on the accelerated roll-out of PTTIs across the country. This JMC will become a catalyst for Bigger, Better and Quicker connectivity. The increase in towers will mean an increase in speed, strength and quality of connection for Filipinos.  It will also stimulate the generation of jobs and economic activity, especially in unserved and underserved areas.

The guidelines aim to shorten the entire timeline—to a target period of 16 days, from the original period of over 200 days—for constructing PTTIs by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and ITCs  duly registered with the DICT, in order to facilitate accelerated rollout of telecommunications infrastructure.

Pursuant to Section 6.5 of the JMC guidelines, (a) Sangguniang Panlungsod/Bayan Resolution; (b) Sangguniang Barangay Resolution/ Barangay Council Resolution; (c) Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) or Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC), if the proposed site of construction is outside an environmentally critical area (ECA); (d) Radiation Safety Evaluation Report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and (e) Certified True Copy of NTC Provisional Authority (PA) or Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) or Certificate of Registration to Provide Telecommunication Services. are no longer required as pre-requisites for the construction of PTTIs.

A Certificate of Use for PTTIs, which is easier to acquire, will now be issued by the Office of the Building Official instead of the Certificate of Occupancy which demands more stringent standards. A separate issuance for Locational Clearance guidelines is being drafted by the DHSUD in accordance with JMC provisions.

Additionally, CAAP will no longer require a Height Clearance Permit (HCP) for PTTIs below fifty (50) meters that are located outside of CAAP Critical Areas (CCA). Instead, an Undertaking by a licensed Geodetic Engineer attesting that the PTTI will be built outside of CCA will be given for submission to the LGU.

Regarding the processing timeline, the periods for the processing, approval and issuance of permits are required to be done within seven (7) days to reflect the mandate under Section 15 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 11032 or the “the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018” and Section 6.5 of the JMC. Permits and clearances not approved within the prescribed periods shall be deemed automatically approved, as required by Section 10 of R.A. 11032. To avoid delays, the permitting process among NGAs and LGUs shall run parallel, with no permit from any office serving as a pre-requisite before other permits are processed and issued.

The DICT will be closely monitoring the permitting process as LGUs are required to inform the Department regarding the approval and disapproval of any building permit applications involving PTTIs. LGUs are likewise prohibited from requiring documents or clearances other than those expressly enumerated under the JMC.

The JMC guidelines are part of ARTA’s National Effort for Harmonization of Efficiency Measures of Inter-related Agencies (NEHEMIA) project. Project NEHEMIA is a streamlining initiative to reduce the permitting time, costs, requirements and procedures by 52% in 52 weeks for the key sectors—including telecommunications. This permit streamlining is only possible through inter-agency collaboration among the government units starting from the barangay level, the LGUs, and up to the NGAs.

“In these trying times, our country is calling on us, as those in government service, to render full assistance and cooperation, and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate measures to curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19. This Joint Memorandum Circular is a testament to the convergent efforts of the government to institute measures that will greatly redound to the benefit of the Filipino people,” Secretary Honasan said.

“Likewise, the DICT would like to extend its thanks and appreciation to all the agencies that actively cooperated and collaborated in this endeavor. This collective effort contributes greatly to the improvement of connectivity in all corners of the country, especially in unserved and underserved areas. With the guidance and directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte through the IATF, let us all work together for continuity, stability, national unity, peace and prosperity,” he added.