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Off-site registration of SIM cards pushed

To beat the deadline on the signup of an estimated 168 million subscriber identity module (SIM) numbers of cellular phone (celfone) owners in the country, a senior lawmaker has called on local government units (LGUs) to help facilitate the establishment of off-sites registration areas in places with limited Internet access.

CamSur Rep. LRay Villafuerte was referring to Republic Act (RA) No. 11394, of which he was among its lead authors, that set beginning last December 27, 2022 the mandatory registration of the SIM numbers or cards of all cell phone owners in the country.

“We are glad that following the initial hitches that marred the December 27 kick-off by the PTEs [public telecommunications entities] of the SIM registration process as set by law, the signup has lately been proceeding rather smoothly, with the number of registrants exceeding 21 million as of last count,” Villafuerte said.

“However, this number of registrants is just over 12 percent of the projected 168 million SIM cards in the country, so unless the registration process is switched to overdrive from hereon, the PTEs along with the DICT [Department of Information and Communications Technology] and NTC [National Telecommunications Commission] might not have enough time to complete the registration process on or before the deadline set by the SIM Registration Act,” Villafuerte said.

According to Villafuerte, it will be easier for the authorities or PTEs to trace persons behind text scams and hold them accountable for breach of privacy along with cell phone-based fraud and other punishable offenses they are able to perpetrate by using unknown or unregistered mobile phone numbers.

Hence, he said, “the need for all concerned government agencies, PTEs and LGUs to act together in informing the public about how the SIM Registration Act could put an end to text spam, online scams, bank fraud, identity theft and other cybercrimes, how they could sign up, and how their SIM numbers would automatically be deactivated—rendering their cell phones inutile—should they fail to register before the deadline set by law.”

“And one way to accelerate the registration process is for local executives to help the PTEs, DITC, NTC and other concerned sectors establish off-site centers where people can sign up, especially in places with limited Internet or telecommunication access,” Villafuerte, a former CamSur governor, added.

For Villafuerte, it’s time for local executives to play an active part in ensuring the success of the SIM registration process in the same way that local governments have had a lead role in the Covid-19 vaccination rollout in their respective localities.

The former governor made the appeal to local executives as the government opened its first offsite registration center in Masantol, Pampanga.

In a joint briefing with DICT and NTC officials, Undersecretary Margarita Gutierrez of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said the government has already identified the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) where the other registration sites will be established, but added no specific dates can be provided yet on when these would be put up.

Under RA 11934’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), the DICT has 60 days upon the release of the IRR to compel the PTEs to roll out these GIDA sites. The IRR was released last December 12.

RA 11394 requires all SIM card owners to register their respective SIM numbers on or before April 26 or risk the automatic deactivation of their cell phone numbers by their PTEs or service providers.

However, this law’s IRR states that this cutoff date may be stretched by a maximum of 120 days or four months after the April 26 deadline.

As of the morning of January 18, the NTC web site reported that an aggregate of 21.12 million SIM cards have already been registered this week.

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