By Charissa Luci-Atienza, April 2 2019; Manila Bulletin

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The House Committee on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is scheduled to conduct a hearing next week to look into the status of the government’s proposed common tower policy.

Tarlac Rep. Victor Yap, chairman of the panel, said the hearing is set on April 8, Monday, amid the objections expressed by the telecommunication companies against the proposed policy of the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT).

“We want to be updated on the common tower policy given that stakeholders have expressed their objections to the first draft. We would like to see the common tower policy push through as this is an important step to make telecommunication services in the country faster and more affordable,” Yap said.

Expected to attend the hearing are Presidential Adviser Ramon Jacinto, DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio, National Telecommunications Commissioner (NTC) Gamaliel Cordoba, Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) Chairman Arsenio Balisacan, Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu, PLDT and Smart Communications President and CEO Manuel Pangilinan, among others.

Under the proposed policy, cell tower firms will be allowed to build and deploy communication infrastructures that may be leased to telecommunications companies to further improve the delivery of their services to the public.

However, the telcos rejected the draft common tower policy of Jacinto that restricted the number of cell site builders to two registered tower providers, citing that this could lead to an infringement of their rights to own and establish cell sites.

According to telcos, their legislative franchises give them the right to own and establish cell sites.

The PCC earlier said the limitation on the number of players that can participate may raise competition concerns.

Reports said the DICT has signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) with common tower companies in the meantime, while it is on the process of revising the policy.

The DICT earlier said it is eyeing to draft a revised common tower policy by the second quarter of this year.