Drilon backs funding for gov’t construction of cell towers


Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon backed a proposal for the government to build cell towers to improve the country’s internet and telecommunication services.

During the Senate’s deliberation of the proposed P10.14 billion budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
“I concur with the proposition that the government should fund the construction of cell towers and rent them to telco companies,” said Drilon, as he cited a very high capital requirement for the building of one cell tower, which amounts to P15 million per cell tower.

“I think the primary at this point is to improve internet services through the construction of cell towers, because, really, we are lagging behind with the rest of the world insofar as internet speed is concerned and insofar as services of telco companies are concerned,” he added.

While Drilon noted the initiative of telecommunication companies to fast-track the construction of cell towers within the next three years, Drilon, in a statement, said it will still not be enough to meet the 70,000 towers to achieve the ideal ratio with the number of subscribers.

The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), upon the minority leader’s intervention, temporarily suspends clearances and permits to build telco towers within the next three years except for building permit and height clearance from Civil Aviation and Aeronautics Board, if necessary.
In a span of four months, 1,200 new towers were built to augment the existing 20,000 towers around the country with about 106 million population.

Within the next three years, around 18,000 to 20,000 new towers will be built by telco companies.

The ideal ratio is 1,000 users per cell tower, Drilon noted. However, the ratio in the country is still 4,258 users per site, far from the ratio in Indonesia at 1,554 users per site, Vietnam at 711 users per site, China at 1,002 users per site, and India at 1,002 users per site.

Drilon said the government should not just rely on the private sector to improve internet and telecommunication services in the country. He said the government must fill in the gap in order to upgrade the country’s digital infrastructure and make it at par with other countries.

“I am in favor of the government taking over the putting up of cell towers and telco companies will just rent them. As pointed out by Senate President Sotto, we are at the mercy of the capital outlay of the telco companies,” he said during his interpellation.

The DICT said it will need P18 billion to implement a National Broadband Program. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) did not fund it for 2021.

Photo: Daily Tribune

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