telecommunications companies

No ID or smartphone? SIM registration may pose problems for poor Filipinos

Ralf Rivas
No ID or smartphone? SIM registration may pose problems for poor Filipinos
An advocacy group warns SIM registration could be difficult in the world's texting and social media capital

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is dubbed the texting and social media capital of the world. But Filipinos who have no identification documents or smartphones are at risk of being cut off from basic communication services, access to the internet, and even social services amid the implementation of the SIM Registration Act.

Advocacy group Junk SIM Registration Network warned that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law failed to include alternative means for individuals without proof of identity, reflecting what it described as the law’s “anti-people nature.”

The IRR specifies that both new and existing users must present a valid government-issued ID with photo to register their SIM card.

Documents and other personal information must be uploaded to a platform or website provided by telecommunications companies. As of writing, telcos have not yet launched their respective platforms.

The Philippines is currently in the process of registering millions of Filipinos in the national ID system, but IDs are taking more than a year or longer to be delivered. (EXPLAINER: Bakit papel lang ang PhilSys o national ID?)

“Although SIM registration itself is free, procuring the requirements such as an ID has costs that can become an added burden for the people since the process requires other documents such as birth certificates or barangay certificates, which are not free. Add to this the cost of transportation and the wage not earned for workers who take a day off to process these documents,” Junk SIM Registration Network said.

“The reasoning that IDs are more accessible nowadays ignores the reality of the poorest Filipinos who struggle to put food on the table and are now expected to shell out hundreds up to thousands of pesos to be able to send a simple text message.”

The group has also questioned the preparedness of telcos to implement the law, which specifies that SIM registration must start on December 27. All SIM cards sold beginning that date will also be in deactivated mode.

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Verification concerns

Senator Grace Poe has expressed “grave concern” over the vagueness of the verification process under the IRR.

“The importance of having a verification process cannot be emphasized enough – it serves as the first line of defense against the misuse of our mobile telecommunication systems to perpetrate national security threats and identity theft in the case of end-users,” Poe said in an emailed statement.

Poe said the verification process may include in-platform facial validation or a selfie scan that apps like GCash or Maya use.

“These are the sophisticated verification systems that we also see in model jurisdictions like Singapore which we all know has effectively implemented SIM registration,” added the senator.

Assurances

Smart assured customers that the registration process would be inclusive and would have measures to assist persons with disabilities, senior citizens, pregnant women, and other persons with special needs.

“With connectivity being crucial to powering the Philippine economy’s resurgence, we reaffirm our commitment to ensure that the implementation of the SIM Registration Law will be easy and convenient for subscribers and will not deprive subscribers of their right to connectivity,” said Francis Flores, Smart senior vice president and head of consumer business.

Globe chief executive officer Ernest Cu said they will set up a special process for those who don’t have smartphones.

“Globe has existing customers who are currently not using smartphones and may not be digital savvy.  Globe shall put in place a special assistance process for these customers so they can go through the registration as well,” Cu said.

Meanwhile, Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said they are using all means to make the registration process “as simple and painless as possible for new Dito subscribers and 14 million existing subscribers.” – Rappler.com

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author

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.