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A move to fast track universal connectivity

Digital connectivity is no longer a luxury, but an essential.

Learning, employment, livelihood, business, accessing essential services can all now be done online. Many opportunities are now available to those who have access online and equipped with digital skills. The lack of these, however, mean slow growth and even lost development opportunities.

Almost half of the world’s population still do not have access to the Internet, and the United Nations’ goal is that every person should have safe and affordable access to the Internet, including meaningful use of digitally enabled services in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, by the year 2030.

From the onset, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has repeatedly stressed the need to provide digital connectivity to all Filipinos in all corners of the country. Rightfully so, because the internet has become a lifeline for the government, businesses, communities, and citizens.

Digitalization has become an essential part of the global economy, which is why the President has underscored the urgent need to fully digitalize the economy. But in order to do so, the government must bridge the digital divide and ensure that Filipinos have safe, affordable, and reliable internet connectivity.

To ensure and fast track the continuous development of digital infrastructure in the country, the President has mandated the institutionalization of streamlined guidelines for the issuance of permits, licenses, and certifications for the construction of telecommunications and internet infrastructure.

Executive Order (EO) No. 32 covers all national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs) involved in the issuance of permits, licenses, clearances, certifications, and authorizations that are required for the construction, installation, repair, operation, and maintenance of Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure; as well as the erection of poles, installation of aerial and underground cables and facilities, underground fiber ducts, ground terminals and other transmission of similar telecommunications and internet infrastructure and facilities, and other passive infrastructure.

To streamline the requirements on telecommunications and internet infrastructure construction, those that will be required will now only include building permits issued by the Office of the Building Official; Height Clearance Permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP); homeowners associations and other community clearances; clearances from other government agencies; and other requirements as mandated by the Constitution and existing laws. No other national or local permit or clearance shall be required in the construction, installation, repair, operation, and maintenance of telecommunications and internet infrastructure.

The EO likewise mandates LGUs to set up one-stop shop for construction permits, which will provide frontline services to applicants securing building permits and other related certificates.

Moreover, all covered government agencies and LGUs are enjoined to implement zero backlog policy in all applications for permits and clearances covered by EO 32, which also requires them to comply with the annual submission of a list of pending applications and compliance to the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA).

The Technical Working Group (TWG) on Telecommunications and Internet Infrastructure, chaired by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), will serve as an oversight body to ensure efficient implementation of the order, and will craft the EO’s implementing rules and regulations within 60 days from the effectivity of the order.

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