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DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Custodio Romana, a weathered 76-year-old farmer residing in a remote hinterland village along the boundaries of Davao de Oro and Davao Oriental provinces, has offered P500 just so he could get help in registering the SIM card in his smartphone.
“I can read, but I’m having a hard time understanding the process to get my SIM card registered,” Romana said in Bisaya. “My companions in the house are also helpless and so, I offer P500 to anyone who can help me register my SIM card.”
Romana is just one of the many people in Davao Oriental’s remote areas, many of whom are bereft of adequate and formal education, who have been seeking the help of urban dwellers and those who understand the telecommunications and information technology better so they could beat the April 26 deadline for the registration of SIM cards.
Local radio stations are being flooded with calls from people from rural and indigenous communities who worry about the prospect of losing communication with their relatives who work elsewhere in the country or overseas.
Nathaniel Quinonez, the manager of the Mati City-based Air Strike Radio, warned that this could result in complications, noting that many of those who offer to register other people’s SIM cards for fees have been using their identification cards and personal data.
“Unscrupulous predators are preying on these hapless people in their frenzied scramble to meet the April 26 SIM card registration deadline,” Quinonez said over the weekend.
On Friday, April 21, one of the co-authors of the law that mandates the registration of SIM cards in the country called again for a 120-day extension for SIM card registrations due to a low registry turnout of only 36.79% days before the deadline.
Republic Act No. 11934, also known as the SIM Registration Act or SIM card law, is a measure that requires SIM cards to be registered before activation. The law applies to all mobile device users, whether prepaid or postpaid, who are required to register their SIM cards.
Davao Oriental 2nd District Representative Cheeno Miguel Almario said legislators had anticipated the possibility of a low registration turnout when they tackled and wrote the law, and inserted a clause in it which allows the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to extend the SIM card registration for 120 days after the April 26 deadline.
But he said the DICT was determined to stick to the deadline and turned down requests to consider extending the deadline.
He said only President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. can still reverse the DICT’s decision now.
The DICT has issued a statement, rejecting calls for an extension of the SIM card registration, reminding the public that non-registration will result in deactivation.
The 2022 law was enacted to curb cybercrime, provide a safer online space, and promote public safety ultimately.
One of the major telecommunications players in the country, Globe Telecoms Incorporated, said the daily registration numbers have increased significantly over the weekend, reaching over one million over the weekend.
But before that, the registration rate had been slow, averaging 200,000 per day in March, prompting Globe to use its Emergency Cell Broadcast (ECB) system to notify subscribers who have yet to comply with the SIM Registration Act.
Yoly Crisanto, the head of Globe’s sustainability and corporate communications, said they were concerned because people’s failure to register may result in SIM deactivation and the loss of mobile services that have become a lifeline for many.
As of April 22, Globe said it has registered just over 35.8 million SIMs out of its 86.7 million customer base, the company said on Monday, April 24.
The SIM Registration Act’s Implementing Rules and Regulations permit an extension of up to 120 days, and telecommunications companies have requested one. – Rappler.com
Ferdinand Zuasola is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.