DITO telecom to build 166 cell sites in Bangsamoro region

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 31 October) — The country’s third major telecommunications company, DITO Telecommunity, has revealed plans to put up at least 166 cell sites to improve connectivity in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Bangsamoro Transportation and Communications Minister Dickson Hermoso said.

DITO has started the construction of the cell sites, some of which are already operational even if not yet officially launched, and hopes to hit its target in 2023, a statement from the Hermoso’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said.

The seat of power in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Cotabato City, 22 September 2021. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

“The MOTC is always ready to cooperate with and support private sector initiatives that would result in faster and more economical, reliable and secure flow of information in the BARMM,” Hermoso said.

DITO, formerly Mislatel, is challenging the duopoly of Globe Telecoms and the Philippine Long Distance Company, owner of Smart Communications, Inc.

DITO is a consortium of Davao City-based businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics with Chinese state-owned firm China Telecom. Uy is a close friend and a top campaign contributor of President Rodrigo Duterte during the 2016 presidential elections. Uy, who contributed 30 million pesos to Duterte’s campaign kitty, ranked third among his campaign contributors – former Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo, Jr. gave 75 million and Duterte’s running mate in 2016, Alan Peter Cayetano contributed 71.3 million. Aside from Uy, Lorenzo A. Te and Samuel C. Uy also contributed 30 million pesos each.

Hermoso led the MOTC during top-level meeting with DITO executives on October 21  in Davao City. The firm was represented by Rodolfo Santiago, chief technology officer, and lawyer Adel Tamano, chief administrative and legal officer.

Hermoso noted that telecommunication remains a problem in many areas of the Bangsamoro region, particularly in the island-provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa).

BARMM also comprises the mainland provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi, Lamitan and Cotabato, and 63 villages in six towns in North Cotabato now referred to as the Special Geographic Area.

Tamano said they are studying the possibility of improving connectivity in the BaSulTa using a submarine cable.

Engr. Omar Marzoc, officer-in-charge of the Bangsamoro Telecommunications Commission, one of the seven sectoral offices under MOTC, told the Bangsamoro Press Corps that the Bangsamoro government welcomes the operations of DITO in the region.

“If they will be able to partner with us and we will be able to assist them in securing their permits and licenses, we might be able to hasten their intention to build more towers and investment in the BARMM,” said Marzoc in a report from the Bangsamoro Information Office.

“Actually, we don’t have any control over them… pwede po tayo magsuggest ng mga locations na pwede nilang i-prioritize na paglalagyan ng kanilang mga towers (but we can suggest the locations where they could put up their priority towers),” Marzoc added.

Marzoc was with Hermoso during the top-level meeting with DITO executives in Davao City.

Marzoc said  DITO has constructed 13 cell sites in Maguindanao, including Cotabato City, and two in Lanao del Sur. These are part of Phase 1 for this year.

For Phase 2 next year, they will be increasing the number of cell sites in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, and for Phase 3, they will be entering BaSulTa, he said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)