Press Release
January 27, 2021


Sen. Grace Poe: I agree, Senator Gatchalian, I think that our resource persons present here today should be able to submit to us your position paper with regard to their concerns on the bill and how they can help us make it more effective and judicious. So from the National Privacy Commission, as Senator Villanueva mentioned earlier, it's really a balancing act between protecting our privacy and protecting our actual physical safety against those that might do us harm using this technology. So, I think now we can ask the DTI. Are you present here today, DTI Asec. Ann Claire? Your position on this, Ma'am, because you will also assume the responsibility of the distribution of the SIM cards.

DTI Asec. Ann Claire Cabochan: Good morning, Madam Chair, and also to the honorable senators present this morning and all the other stakeholders who are here. On the part of DTI, I recall that in the Lower House, the DTI had submitted a position paper in support of a proposed bill on the mandatory registration of SIMs. That was in January of 2020, we are still in the process also of preparing our position paper for the Senate. But for the purpose of this hearing, I would just like to also echo that DTI always has a very delicate balancing act—balancing the interests of businesses and consumers. But in this case, I come from the consumer protection group and we are always looking at ways to safeguard consumers and all of us our consumers against text scams, misleading advertisements, fraudulent sales promos. So, we see that the registration part would help in preventing crimes and scams and other illegal acts that are prohibited under the Consumer Act. But it should always be balanced of course with the requirements under the Data Privacy law. Thank you, Madam Chair.

Poe: So my question again now, Asec. Ann, would you be able to implement this properly? Will the DTI have the capability to ensure that the establishments that are carrying all of these loads will be made aware of the new law? And that you can come up with the guidelines when it comes to the registration of the SIM cards.

Cabochan: Madam Chair, we, the DTI, I'm sure will be able to come out with the necessary guidelines and advisories. And also, we are very proactive in our advocacy work to ensure that, if there is a new law, it is really cascaded to the consumers. So yes, Madam Chair.

Poe: Okay. My question now is this: for example, it is registered, the SIM card is registered, who will have that database? Who is going to handle the database for that? Is it the DTI? Will the telcos just have it available for present, available for it to be presented anytime government asks for it? That's actually one of the things that we need to be able to sort out. Will the DTI be able to handle the database for all of that? And if not the DTI, let's say that telcos, which I want to hear from after the DTI, how they're going to go about in the roll-out of this new regulation, if ever. Go ahead, Asec. Ann.

Cabochan: Yes, Madam Chair, at this time when there are, of course, for the postpaid subscriptions, these are handled by, of course, the telcos and we work closely with the NTC for any concerns on mobile phones. So, on who is going to handle the registry, I think that DTI will have to work with the telcos and other government agencies like NTC, perhaps, in coming up with the database. But, Madam Chair, to be very candid I am not sure if it will be DTI that will handle that registry.

Poe: This is something that we really need to sort out eventually. I don't know if there will be a technical working group after this so that we may be able to iron out some of the details before we can submit the committee report. But I'd like to hear from the telcos. Let's begin with Globe or Smart, it doesn't matter, or Dito. What I want to know is that if we pass this into law, how are you going to be able to implement this? Will you be able to keep a database of those that registered their SIM, that will be in the millions, maybe in a week, so that will be millions of registrations. And if the government has no capability to hold on to those names, that you should be able to present it at any time if there is a question on a particular SIM registration. Let's begin, alphabetically, with Dito.

Adel Tamano: Thank you, Senator Grace, and to the honorable senators here. I am Adel Tamano, Chief Administrative Officer of Dito. Allow me to say that we have already discussed this bill with the highest levels of our leadership in Dito and we are supportive of SIM registration. We do understand that it will entail costs, however, we laud the initiative in order to protect the public. I think, what I do want to say in fairness to the other telcos, is since we are just starting up and we are setting up our system, it is going to be easier for us to be able to make SIM registration a part of our process. In fact, I have already talked with our technology team, in advance of today's hearing because we are supportive of this and we will already start figuring out how to make sim registration part of our business process. Those are my comments, Madam Senator, and your honors.

Poe: Thank you for your willingness to cooperate should this pass into law. Maybe we can hear now from Globe.

Ariel Tubayan: Yes, Madam Chairman, good morning po. Good morning sa mga miyembro po ng komiteng ito at sa mga kasama kong resource person. Kami naman po sa Globe, we submit to the collective wisdom of the Senate as may be tempered by the comments of the various stakeholders. Ang malaking bonus po kasi nito, ng batas na ito is 'yung digital or financial inclusiveness. 'E kung may, on top of that, makakatulong sa law enforcement siguro bonus nalang po 'yun. But gaya nga ng sinabi ni Engineer Galla, ang pinakamalaki at pinaka-successful na test case, usefulness nito ay sa financial inclusion. As to the collection of information po, malaking bagay po at buti nalang po at napasa na ang National ID system, so sa tingin po natin, kaakibat po ng implementasyon ng National ID system ay ang registration ng SIM cards. Dahil po para maging successful ang implementasyon ng SIM card registration, kailangan pong may isang database po na authentic, reliable, at credible po. Gaya po ng sabi ng Data Privacy, malaking pong bagay, there's several points of failure in the collection of subscriber information. So siguro sa technical working group, pagtutuunan natin ito kung paano ito maresolba. Kasi gaya din po ng nasabi ni Engineer Galla, meron pong mga problema about number spoofing. So, pwede pong gayahin 'yung numero because technology, magpapanggap na ang numerong 'to ay galing, kunwari sa akin pero 'yun pala ay galing sa isang scammer. So, marami pong failure points na pwede nating i-consider. Let's see how we can work on it to improve on how can this bill be effectively implemented. Pangalawa po, I think it is important that there will be ample time in the implementation of the SIM card registration dahil po alam natin na sa Pilipinas, mahigit 90 porsiyento ang prepaid SIM cards at mas malaki po ito sa number of registered voters. So kung ang COMELEC ay nahihirapan sa pagrehistro ng mga registered voter, what more with the prepaid SIM card registration. And then siguro ang ample time— kaya suriin po natin ang mga panukala na realistic po timetable dahil sa pinaka-recent na implementasyon nito sa Nigeria, na inimplement noong 2011 na hanggang ngayon po ay hindi pa fully-implemented dahil sa maraming problema. So 'yun po, I think magandang tingnan po ang mga kahinaan, mga failure ng implementation ng mandatory SIM card registration tulad ng sa Mexico at sa Canada. But gaya ng nasabi ko, ang pinakamalaking challenge po nito is 'yung timetable to register. Siguro sa mechanism na biometric capture through online means, well and good— that will hasten the process. Pero sa ngayon, mano-mano po talaga ngayon. And then medyo gaya ng sabi ng National Privacy Commission, pwede pong magkasabwat 'yung nagrerehistro at 'yung kumukuha ng registration. So, medyo 'yun ang malaking tignan po natin na issue kung paano natin po masolusyunan. So 'yun lamang po, at gaya ng nasabi ko, ang malaking usefulness nito ay for digital and financial inclusion. 'Yun lamang po, Madam Chair.

Poe: Thank you, Mr. Tubayan. Actually, we appreciate you giving us a very realistic scenario. Oo nga naman ano, mas maraming SIM card registrants kaysa voters. At saka hindi lamang 'yun, talagang mabilis siguro, mas nagpapalit ang mga nagpaparehistro ng kanilang SIM card. So again, the repository of that information will be crucial to the success of the implementation, should we have one.


Poe:.. I guess moving forward, I thank Engineer Galla for reminding us about the database group that was already created, the separate group that will handle the database that was created by the NTC. I think this was the law on the portability of the numbers. I would like to ask the NTC now an update on that, if they've actually implemented it. Mr. Cabarios, are you aware of this commitment by the NTC to put up that separate entity that will manage the database of information for cell numbers?

Edgardo Cabarios: Yes, your honor. This is the mobile number portability implementation of the law, your honor. The three telcos, your honor, have created a joint venture in 2019, they called this 'Telecommunications Connectivity, Inc.' and this joint venture company has conducted a mobile number portability service provider, they call it the 'Syniverse'. In their submission in 2020, they said that the intra number portability, meaning to say prepaid to postpaid, postpaid to prepaid, the intra company will be implemented by the last quarter of 2020 and the full implementation is first quarter of 2021. But the latest update, your honor, because of the community quarantine that was implemented in the Philippines, they have moved the implementation, your honor. So the intra company, mobile number portability, to be implemented by the first quarter this year will be, I think, second quarter this year. And full implementation is the third quarter of the year. That means by June of this year, the intra company will be implemented. And by Sept. 30 this year, the full commercial operation, your honor, of the mobile number portability.

Poe: Am I understanding this correctly? So, the government basically delegated the private sector to be the repository of that information on the cell phone numbers and the telecommunications company, formed another company called the intra company?

Cabarios: It's a joint venture owned by the three telcos.

Poe: Which three telcos again?

Cabarios: Dito Telecommunity, Globe and Smart.

Poe: Are these the only three providers of cell numbers?

Cabarios: Mobile phone network providers at present, yes.

Poe: I would like to hear an update, just from one company because we're running out of time and I'm hoping that the next topic will be easier because it is for the interest of the majority, but I'd like to ask Globe, what is your update on this supposed joint venture, whatever you call it among all the telcos managing the database? Okay, can we hear from Smart?

Roy Ibay: Good afternoon, Madam Chair. We actually submitted an update to the NTC yesterday. The update comes from the mobile number portability consortium which is called the Telecommunications Connectivity Inc. This a consortium composed of DITO, Globe and Smart specifically to implement the mandate of the law, the Mobile Number Portability Act. And by virtue of that law, which allows us to get a mobile number portability platform providers similar to what occurred in other countries, we chose Syniverse as our platform provider. And since last year, we have been working closely with Syniverse, to implement the platform. But, of course, there are a lot of things which happened last year which undoubtedly caused some delay on the part of the three telcos and Syniverse to implement this. The original target was really June of this year, but because of the pandemic, I guess everything else got affected also. And so we submitted our revised timeline yesterday that by June we will start the interoperability testing, and the full commercial launch will probably be on September of this year.

Poe: Thank you Mr. Ibay. Okay, so we have that system in place already should we pass this bill, then the registration can hopefully be absorbed by that intra company, there's a possibility that it can be done, right?

Ibay: In a limited capacity, Madam Chair, because we assume that, not everyone at a certain point, will have to port and that the process will actually first, of course, take into consideration only those subscribers who will have to port. But then again, similar to when this issue on SIM registration was raised as far back as 10 years ago, as pointed out by Senator Zubiri, we've been in touch also with other carriers, like in Malaysia MCMC, what they did was they implemented this alongside their implementation of the National ID, their National ID Act. So, contemporaneous with their registration with National ID they had their SIM registration process. We don't know if that is best practice but again, maybe the devil is in the details, maybe this can be discussed adequately in a technical working group. Thank you.


Poe: Okay. Thank you, Mr Ibay. Again, the importance of the technical working group after this because we need the honest opinion of experts who will have to implement, and the success of the bill will only really be in the implementation later on when it's a law. With that, I would like to move on to our next bill in consideration which is the non-expiration of our load, if there is a presentation from anybody in the panel. So, the non-expiration of data, up until recently all telecommunication companies are subjecting the data subscribers to an expiration period. In October of last year, however, digital telco GOMO was launched in the Philippines and offered a mobile data of up to 25 gigabytes without an expiration. GOMO is operated in the Philippines by Globe and we laud their initiative. GOMO stands for Go Out More Often. It is the first fully digital mobile service provider in the Philippines. A mobile virtual network operator or MVNO or an entity that offers services similar to a mobile network operator, MNO, such as Globe and Smart, but doesn't own any radio frequency. So MVNOs enter into a business agreement with MNOs so that they can use the latter's network for its services. It can be found in four markets: Singapore, Ireland, Thailand and the Philippines. As an introductory offer, customers may avail of GOMO's 5G ready SIM cards and 25 gigabyte no expiry data for only P199, this will increase to P299 by January 2021.


Poe: I think there should really be a further technical discussion on this. In principle, it is very good for the consumers to have the assurance that their load will not expire. But, of course, we understand that it might be untenable later on to manage a database full of registered numbers, especially if we pass this, that has been inactive. So, there should also be a responsibility on the part of the consumers when it comes to their prepaid cards.



Poe: ... Please be advised that my office will keep track of the submissions that were requested by the senators as well as myself. And you will also be notified of the dates for the technical working group, all the senators are invited to attend although this is not an official hearing. So, with that this hearing is now suspended.

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