Dasmariñas Village residents quarrel over Globe cell sites

Rambo Talabong
55 Globe antennas now stand inside the exclusive subdivision. Some residents say they were not consulted, and ask where the P4-M annual payments have gone.

ON CORNERS. The ODAs built by Globe Telecom are strategically placed evenly along sidewalks or street corners of the subdivision. Photo by Rambo Talabong.

MANILA, Philippines – A group of homeowners from the exclusive Dasmariñas Village in Makati City condemned the officers of their neighborhood association for allowing Globe Telecoms to install cell towers in the area without consulting with residents.

In a press conference on Monday, June 26, the group Dasma Acts accused the Dasmariñas Village Association (DVA) of violating the Magna Carta for Homeowners and Homeowners’ Associations (Republic Act 9904) when it let Globe Telecom lease their subdivision streets to set up Outdoor Distributed Antenna System (ODAS) for P4 million every year without their “written consent.”

The installation of the cell sites is part of Globe’s metro-wide plan to expand and speed up their service. Other exclusive neighborhoods have refused, while others have given in after talks with the company.

“No genuine consultation or referendum has been called to find out the sentiments of all homeowners of the village,” said Fides Lim, one of the leaders of Dasma Acts.

On top of this, the DVA has not disclosed fully where the money collected from Globe Telecom went, Dasma Acts members said.

According to Lim, they initially agreed to hang only 4 cell sites on their lamp posts. As the years went on, however, they were shocked to find out that Globe had already installed at least 55 units, with some placed in front of their homes.

This has sparked concern not only for the lack of transparency of DVA but also for the health risks associated with the radiation emitted by these installations.

Health concerns

Globe has dismissed concerns that cell sites can potentially cause diseases, such as cancer, but members of Dasma Acts are not convinced. (READ: A nonpresent danger: Dispelling cellphone radiation myths)

Lim said they want the residents to be given informed and free choice on the matter, and this would only be possible if they are told that findings on the supposed safety of radiation are not conclusive. The DVA should also claim accountability when asking for residents’ consent, she said. 

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) under the World Health Organization has classified the radiation from cell sites as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” at Group 2B. It is the category used when a causal association is considered credible but may be affected by chance or bias of researchers.

INSTALLED. Globe cell sites scatter at street corners of the posh Dasmariñas Village in Makati. Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler

“While an increased risk of brain tumors is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk,” the WHO says.

The American Cancer Society provides 3 reasons signals are safe:

  1. The energy level of radiofrequency (RF) waves is relatively low, especially when compared with the types of radiation that are known to increase cancer risk.
  2. RF waves have long wavelengths, making them less likely to affect cells in the body.
  3. The level of RF waves present at ground level is very low.

With 55 cell sites at street-lamp level emitting radiation 24/7, residents refuse to take the risk.

“The least that they could do is to advocate for the precautionary principle in the face of scientific uncertainty,” said Jay Jaime, a medical doctor supporting Dasma Acts. “If there is a risk of permanent harm, irreparable harm that can be harmful to humans or even to the environment, then they should practice caution, right? But they’re ignoring it.”

Build them elsewhere

For Dasma Acts member Betty Dante Aw, the answer is simple: build cell sites elsewhere.

“Why blame the subdivisions? Weak signal has long been the problem of telcos. Why put the [risk] unto us?” Dante Aw said.

According to her, they had tried reaching out to the DVA, but the officers never got back to them, so they took the issue to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).

The HLURB then demanded DVA to have a meeting with the homeowners, but the village officers missed all 3 scheduled meetings for the past two months.

Based on this, the HLURB declared null the results of the election of the officers on April 2, 2017.

New elections will take place on July 9, and members of Dasma Acts will run against the incumbents, vowing to bring strict regulations, if not total ban, on the ODAS if ever they win. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.