CAMARINES Sur Rep. Luis Raymund "LRay" Villafuerte supported a government plan to set up subscriber identity module (SIM) registration centers in areas with limited internet access and has asked local government units (LGUs) to assist in the establishment of kiosks in their respective jurisdictions in support of public-private efforts to meet the deadline for signing up an estimated 168 million SIM numbers of cellular phone owners in the country.

"However, this number of registrants is just over 12 percent of the projected 168 million SIM cards in the country, so unless the registration process is switched to overdrive from hereon, the public telecommunications entities, along with the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) and NTC (National Telecommunications Commission), might not have enough time to complete the registration process on or before the deadline set by the SIM Registration Act," Villafuerte said on Wednesday.

Villafuerte was referring to Republic Act (RA) 11394, of which he was one of the key authors, which requires the mandatory registration of all cellular phone owners in the country beginning on Dec. 27, 2022.

He made the plea to local leaders during the opening of the government's first off-site registration facility in Masantol, Pampanga.

RA 11394 urges all SIM card owners to register their SIM numbers by April 26 or risk having their phone numbers deactivated automatically by their public telecommunications companies or service providers.

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"With the mandatory SIM registration, all cellphone subscribers will be better protected against the plethora of phone-based scams like 'smishing,' more so now that digital tricksters have managed to hack more personal information from their victims, including the actual names of these cellphone users they intend to swindle," Villafuerte said.

As of the morning of January 18, the NTC website indicated that 21.12 million SIM cards had already been registered this week.

So far, 10,386,685 SIM card owners have signed up with Smart Communications Inc., 8,963,101 with Globe Telecom Inc. and 1,779,139 with DITO Telecommunity Corp.

"The DICT and NTC should be 100 percent confident that by the time our cell phone owners have registered their SIM numbers, the would-be national database of SIM data is truly fool-proof against attacks from devious local and foreign groups that hide behind the cloak of anonymity in perpetrating crimes with the use of cellphones," Villafuerte said.

"These agencies must bear in mind that they will be dealing here with private and sensitive data of would-be registrants that are stored in possibly as many as 168 million SIM cards," he ended.