MANILA - Several senators on Thursday backed President Rodrigo Duterte's call for telecommunication companies to submit a progress report on how they have been improving their services through the COVID-19 pandemic when internet services have been more in demand due to quarantine restrictions that kept people at home.
Senators "expect improvement" especially after Congress included in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) a provision that waives permits needed for the construction of cell cites, Senate Committee on Public Services chair Sen. Grace Poe said in a statement.
"This pandemic has shown us unprecedented demand. Better services must be delivered in the soonest possible time," she said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who authored the special provision for telcos under Bayanihan 2, supported Duterte's demand for a progress report.
"I support the President's directive, having authored that provision in Bayanihan 2 suspending for 3 years the need for permits to construct cell towers," he told reporters in a text message.
"I have no written report of the number of cell towers constructed since Bayanihan 2. I only know that telco services remain bad," he said.
Aside from telcos, the Senate will also review the performance of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Poe said.
"Both regulator and telcos must work double time to meet the demands of the new normal," she said.
Poe said she expects NTC officials to "show the public how it has been doing its job during the ongoing pandemic" next week when the Senate Committee on Public Services convenes to discuss the franchise renewal of DITO Telecommunity, the Philippines' third telco.
"It should be able to show in concrete terms how it ensured compliance of telcos for ample bandwidth allocation and availability of service and signal to its subscribers," she said.
in July, Poe's committee was forced to suspend a hearing on the country's internet connectivity problems because of bad connection during the hybrid proceedings, when several participants were joining through teleconferencing.