Following the issuance of Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1 s. 2020 or the Streamlined Guidelines for the Issuance of Permits, Licenses, and Certificates for the Construction of Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure (PTTI) last July, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory on September 3 assuring the public that prior to installation of antennas, an evaluation is done to determine its safety.
FDA, quoting the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), said antennas installed in cell sites emit radiofrequency radiation (RFR). However, FDA, citing ICNIRP, stated that adverse health effect arising from exposure to RFR is only possible at high powered/intensity exposures exceeding limits and safe distances in front of the antennas that are normally inaccessible to the public. FDA added these values are calculated through the issuance of Certificate of Safety Evaluation (CSE) prior to installation of cell site antennas.
In addition, FDA said that it is unlikely that a person could be exposed to RFR levels greater than the limits specified by the Department of Health (DOH) Administrative Order. 175 s. 2004 or the Radiation Protection Standards for Radiofrequency Radiation in the Frequency Range 3 kHz to 300 GHz.
The World Health Organization (WHO), according to FDA, also maintained that there are no adverse effects from typical exposure to radiofrequency radiation (RFR) produced by cell sites.
Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1 s. 2020 or the Streamlined Guidelines for the Issuance of Permits, Licenses, and Certificates for the Construction of Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure (PTTI) aims to streamline requirements and reduce procedural delays in securing the necessary permits, licenses, clearances, certificates, and other requirements in the construction of common towers from over 200 days to a target period of 16 days.
The JMC was signed last July 23 by concerned agencies including the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Department of Health (DOH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said all the efforts to speed up the construction of cell sites is in accordance with the directives of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Section 4 (ii) of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which mandates the DICT to undertake measures in partnership with appropriate Internet and communication service providers to accelerate the deployment of critical ICT infrastructure, particularly additional cell towers, equipment, software and wireless technologies.
“Rest assured that the DICT will continue to coordinate with relevant government agencies and private entities to fast track the deployment of ICT infrastructures in our country to provide better Internet connectivity to the people amid the new normal,” he explained.
“We’d also want the public to understand that, while we are expediting the roll-out of ICT infrastructures, the government does not neglect the safety of the public—there are safeguards in place to ensure the safety of such infrastructures,” Honasan added.
In addition to a more holistic government approach in accelerating ICT infrastructure, Section 4 (ii) of the recent Bayanihan to Heal as One Act provides that only the Supreme Court may issue a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction or preliminary mandatory injunction against the construction of telecommunications infrastructure, including cell sites and cell towers.