By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan, December 1, 2020; Philippine News Agency

MANILA – More than 2,000 permits and clearances to build cell towers filed by telecommunications companies have been approved by local government units (LGUs), Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said.

In a briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte aired over state-run PTV-4 on Monday night, Año said a total of 2,220 telecommunication permits have been approved to address the public clamor for improved telecommunications services, especially during the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) where millions of people are working and studying from home.

“Sa telcos naman po, iyong mga pinag-utos ninyo na para mapabilis ‘yung ating applications sa mga towers. — mula po noong pinag-utos ninyo ay 2,220 na po ang na-approve at 712 na lang po ‘yung pending (As for telcos, regarding your order to fast track the application for construction of towers, 2,220 permits were approved and we now only have 712 pending applications),” Año said.

Earlier, Año said the LGUs have complied with the order of Duterte to fast-track the process for the construction of cell towers to boost the telecommunication companies’ cellular and internet services.

He said the application process had been shortened to 16 days and the required permits were also cut down which made it for the telecommunication companies easier to comply.

Año said the telecommunication companies no longer have a reason for the delay in improving their capacities.

Telecommunications companies could now build critical information and communications technology infrastructures, including cell towers faster with the provisions of the Bayanihan 2.

Aside from temporarily suspending the requirement to secure voluminous permits and clearances, the law provides for the streamlining of regulatory processes and procedures to improve digital internet and satellite technology infrastructure.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said earlier all pending and new applications for cell towers, cell sites, roll out of fiber ground, installation of poles, ground terminals, and other transmissions shall be approved or disapproved with a non-extendible period of seven days.

Earlier, Duterte lamented the “very poor” services provided by telecommunication companies in the country, noting that it has been the “agony of the Filipino people” for several years.

The Philippines currently has 17,850 cell sites according to the 2019 3rd Quarter Report by TowerXChange, an informal network advisor in the market tower industry worldwide.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology earlier said the country needs at least 50,000 more cell towers to improve services.