WITH over 110 million “active” prepaid subscriber identity module (SIM) cards nationwide, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is pressing for their mandatory registration to prevent their use in illegal activities.
Gatchalian urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to seek Malacanang’s support for a proposed bill seeking the same.
“If you look at statistics, there are about 110 million active and outstanding prepaid SIM cards in the whole country,” the senator said.
“If our population is 100 million, it appears that even babies have prepaid SIM card. It just goes to say that some people own two, three, four SIM cards,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian said SIM cards were “becoming a source of harassment and criminality”.
”So, it’s about time to have that registration of prepaid SIM cards. We’re the only country in Asia that do not register prepaid SIM cards,” said Gatchalian, author of Senate Bill 203, or the “SIM Card Registration Act,” which requires all prospective buyers of prepaid SIM cards to present a valid photo ID before they can complete their purchase.
Old SIM cards, on the other hand, should be registered within 180 days from the effectivity of the proposed measure, he said.
“We’re calling on DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima to push for the approval of this proposal,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the committee on economic affairs.
“I remember that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary Salalima assured members of the Commission on Appointments that he would support this bill. Let’s see what will be his action on this,” he said.
Gatchalian expressed hope that Salalima would “faithfully exercise his duties as DICT secretary despite his close ties to telecom (telecommunications) insiders.”
Prior to his appointment to head the DICT, Salalima served as chief legal counsel and senior vice president for corporate and regulatory affairs of Globe Telecom.
Gatchalian recalled that as Globe’s legal counsel, Salalima objected to the mandatory registration of SIM cards as he cited how this would reduce the sales of those that were prepaid and, consequently, affect the income of telcos (telecommunication companies).
Salalima also worked as vice president and head of legal and human relations at the International Communications Corporation, later renamed Bayantel; and as a board director and corporate and chief counsel of Radio Communications of the Philippines (RCPI). He was also a former president of the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO).
Gatchalian deplored how the “intense lobbying by telecom players against its [the bill’s]approval, has made it difficult for lawmakers to marhsal majority support for the proposed measure’s enactment into law.”
“Telecom industry players have been the biggest stumbling block to the approval of this proposed scheme. With Secretary Salalima now at the helm of the DICT, I hope he would succeed where legislators have so far failed – to change the minds of telecoms honchos and make them agree with the proposal,” he said.