The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is poised to seal agreements with more international cell tower providers, its top official said.
DICT acting chief Eliseo Rio Jr. said in an interview that advanced discussions were underway with China Energy Engineering Group, which he said was into building transmission lines and towers; American Tower; Malaysia’s Edotco and Nigeria’s IHS Towers.
An agreement will lay down the conditions for which the DICT will provide crucial support such as helping to process permits and right-of-way so that tower builders can roll out infrastructure faster and plug the gaps in the mobile networks of PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.
Since December last year, the DICT has so far signed agreements with two tower builders: ISON ECP Tower Singapore Pte. Ltd. and ISOC Infrastructures Inc.
The rollout of more cell towers and potential infrastructure sharing between the telcos would also benefit the third mobile player known as Mislatel Consortium, the venture between Filipino businessman Dennis A. Uy and China Telecom that is seeking to challenge the incumbents.
Tower providers signaled their readiness to deal with the DICT under Rio as concerns over a looming disruptive leadership change had eased in recent days.
Rio was set to be replaced by Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, who told reporters in November last year that he had accepted President Duterte’s offer for him to lead the DICT.
Since then, questions have been raised on Honasan’s lack of technical qualifications and, more recently, on his possible disqualification from assuming the job as DICT secretary.
Those opposed to the appointment of Honasan, now on his last term, pointed to Article 6 Section 13 of the 1987 Constitution, which stated that no member of Congress could be appointed to any office “which may have been created or the emoluments thereof increased during the term for which he was elected.”
The law that created the DICT was signed on May 23, 2016, or halfway through Honasan’s six-year term.
Rio, who had expected to leave his post this month, said he would continue to run the DICT until Malacañang finalized plans for his replacement.
The implementation of a tower sharing policy had also placed the DICT under Rio at odds with the office of Presidential adviser Ramon Jacinto, who is drafting the common tower rules.
On one hand, the DICT wants no limit to the number of common tower providers and to scale back certain provisions in the rules that are expected to be challenged by the telcos in court.
Jacinto’s office wants to limit the tower providers to just two in the first four years and to bar the telcos from building new towers and from having any ownership in their operators.
Jacinto, who previously said he was in talks with Honasan to implement the common tower rules, declined to comment.―Inquirer