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Filipinos are suckers for “late-minute” and “spur-of-the-moment” decisions, which is why the government’s SIM Card Registration Act had rather been listless with millions of subscribers of three telecommunications firms – Smart, Globe, and DITO – still unregistered up until the April 26, 2023 deadline.

Subscribers had pointed to poor telco signal and lack of IDs which apparently hindered their desire to register their SIM cards.

But Regional Director Azor Sitchon, of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Region III, said poor area coverage should not stop them from registering their SIM cards. “Hindi naman reason yung poor coverage.” Sitchon and NTC personnel in Region III had their hands full in the runup to the April 26 SIM card registration deadline. With the new deadline on July 25, 2023 – they will work double time to encourage the people to support the program.

Sitchon with telcos in tow had been coordinating with LGUs all over Central Luzon for the conduct of SIM registration in their areas including those in the remotest areas. It was akin to running a presidential campaign all over the country with three candidates, all of which should win – Smart, Globe, and DITO.

When the original April 26 deadline lapsed – more than 100 million subscribers are still unregistered. The impending deactivation of SIM cards will affect the lives of millions of Filipinos and will negate the ample achievement we had gained in the economy so far after the debilitating COVID-19 pandemic. Telcos will also be at the losing end here because they stand to lose millions of subscribers that would translate into millions of pesos.

No wonder why it had been the telcos who appealed for the deadline extension. Never the subscribers.
The SIM Card Registration Act had been primarily enforced to curb text scams and online scams to protect the public. Sitchon, however, said a “court order” is still needed to prosecute text scammers granted they are identified.

In Central Luzon at least, Sitchon had been spearheading a no-nonsense campaign that would entice subscribers to register their SIM cards going as far as the upland area of Barangay Nabuclod, Floridablanca to serve the Aeta community. With telcos in tow, Sitchon asked the assistance of the Barangay Captain to issue barangay IDs for the Aetas. Thus, the remote residents of Nabuclod were among the first to register their SIM cards.

If barangay IDs would now be allowed, anyone can now make fake barangays IDs or any other IDs for that matter just to register, right? Now, where would be the supposed protection from criminal elements that can be derived from this exercise?

Sitchon said it had not been easy to campaign for the SIM Card Registration Act all over Central Luzon but is hopeful that with the new deadline on July 25, 2023, all subscribers would have been registered.
Telecom firms had been urged to go down to the grassroots to reach out to more subscribers such as what the NTC had done in the upland area of Nabuclod.

“SIM registration was meant to promote the responsible use of SIM and to halt the abuses of scammers and criminals. It is not meant to punish legitimate SIM subscribers, especially those at remote areas,” so said Senator Grace Poe.

With six months of SIM card registration, perhaps all subscribers – even those in the tiny far away islands that comprise the country, would be able to register. But one thing comes to mind. Isn’t it the right of every Filipino to have access to communication services?

In the meantime, Sitchon urged the public: “Mag register tayo, now na!.”

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