Telcos oppose prepaid SIM card registration plan
A telecommunication industry group has formally opposed moves by lawmakers to require the registration of prepaid mobile phone SIM cards, saying their businesses will be hurt while the proposed measures would be ineffective in achieving their purpose of promoting public safety and preventing crime.
Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators, whose members include the two biggest telcos in the country—Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and Globe Telecom, filed a position paper on Oct. 21 against the SIM Card Registration Act (House Bill Nos. 525, 858, 2444, 2588 and 2624) with the House committee on information and telecommunications technology.
The bills would require telecommunication companies to set up a “fool proof system” to identify pre-paid mobile subscribers—which account for more than 90 percent of the combined 109 million cellular subscriber accounts of PLDT and Globe as of June.
Lawmakers behind the bills are focusing on prepaid accounts as these are easier to obtain compared to postpaid accounts.
They believe that requiring registration of the SIM cards would help authorities track down criminals like kidnappers, drug dealers and terrorists and eventually decrease crime incidence in the country.
The telecommunication industry group, however, dismissed the laws as a rehash of previous proposals that were all rejected by Congress.
“We respectfully express our opposition to the enactment of the subject bills because the bills’ purpose will be at naught and simply cannot be attained via the means proposed,” Rodolfo Salalima, president of the PCTO and Globe’s chief legal counsel, said in the position paper.
The group’s paper also questioned aspects of the proposed measures, their effects on consumers and rural SIM card retailers, and the “unrealistic effectivity” and harsh penalties they provided.
The group also noted that the proposed measures contradicted the government’s “universal service” policy.
It said some subscribers, such as those in rural areas, were “hardly capable of loading even minimally their cellular phones so they can communicate” and would have difficulty traveling to urban centers to register their accounts.
“If these poor subscribers cannot register their SIM cards because of their personal incapability and limitations, is the government ready to punish them further by deactivating their cellular phones and services as to deprive them of their livelihood and their inexpensive yet efficient means of transportation and communication,” the group said.
The group also questioned the ID requirement that the government wants to implement, noting that “even passports can be faked” in the Philippines.
“Thus, a solution (meant to prevent crimes) which is ineffective is no solution at all,” it said.
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