MANILA – The registration for the subscriber identity module (SIM) cards will be extended for another 90 days or until July 25, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla announced on Tuesday.
However, after the original April 26 deadline, subscribers will have limited access to services until they finally register.
“Most of the services will be cut off with the telcos (telecommunications companies). So, there will be a social media unavailability for those who do not register in the next 90 days,” Remulla said in an interview after attending a Cabinet cluster meeting.
Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, called for a boost in information dissemination of Republic Act (RA) 11934 or the SIM Registration Act now that the deadline has been extended.
Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services, said the extension would help clarify the confusion and concerns of registrants regarding the law.
"It should be emphasized that SIMs will still be available in local retailers and sari-sari stores even past the SIM Registration deadline. Users will simply be required to register first before they can activate their new SIMs," she said in a statement as she welcomed the decision to extend the registration.
"SIM registration was meant to promote the responsible use of SIM and to halt the abuses of scammers and criminals. It is not meant to punish legitimate SIM subscribers, especially those at remote areas."
She recalled that when the bill on SIM registration was under deliberation, lawmakers considered the compliance of the more than 168 million SIM subscribers and had foreseen the need to extend the registration period to accommodate all users.
Poe was the bill's sponsor in the Senate.
As of April 23, National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) data show that about 82,845,397, or 49.31 percent of SIM cards have been registered.
The breakdown is as follows:
DITO: 5,796,175 or 38.73 percent
Globe: 37,099,437 or 42.77 percent
SMART: 39,949,785 or 60.25 percent
Poe reiterated her call to telecom firms to go down to the grassroots to reach out to more subscribers.
"As most telcos have been enjoying vast profits from their services, they have the corresponding obligation and the necessary resources to track down their SIM users and to widen the opportunity for registration," she said.
Poe noted that while several locations have been visited for remote registration, more needs to be covered as key areas, such as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have yet to be reached, according to data from the NTC.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) should also look into the continuing proliferation of spam messages despite the ongoing SIM registration, she said.
Meanwhile, two days before the SIM card registration deadline, the DICT and its attached agencies met with officials from the country’s three public telecommunication entities (PTEs) – Globe, Smart, and DITO – to discuss concerns on the implementation of RA 11934.
In a statement, the DICT said it exchanged views with the three firms on ways to resolve some issues faced by the registrants, such as barriers in obtaining government-issued IDs and documents, and improvements in the SIM registration process.
Only one of the 17 accepted government-issued IDs and documents is needed to proceed with the registration, the DICT said.
"The possibility of extending the SIM registration period was also discussed during the meeting. We advise everyone to await the official announcement of the Department on the matter," the statement read.
Filipinos are encouraged to register their SIM cards before the deadline.
"The increasing number of registrants in the past few days is a clear indication that Filipinos share the desire to eradicate online and text scams once and for all," the DICT said.
RA 11934, which was the first measure signed into law by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Oct. 10, 2022, aims to fight scams being made through text and online messages.
On Dec. 27, 2022, the 180-day SIM card registration began and was supposed to end on April 26, 2023.
SIM cards already in use but not registered during the sign-up period will be deactivated while new cards must be registered upon purchase.
In a statement, PLDT-Smart head of corporate communications Cathy Yang welcomed the extension as it would give more time to their subscribers to register as well as allow PTEs to intensify their registration campaigns.
“With regards to the gradual deactivation being evaluated by the DICT, the discussions among the DICT, the NTC, and the mobile network operators are still ongoing. Our initial assessment is that it would be difficult for us to implement due to time constraints,” Yang said.
On the other hand, Darius Delgado, Globe’s head of consumer mobile business, applauded the extension and called on their subscribers to register by visiting their website.
“If you are having a hard time registering your SIMs, you can go to our Globe Stores and EasyHubs and we will provide the necessary assistance,” Delgado said.
Meanwhile, Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. said with the extension, the government has prudently avoided shutting out Filipinos from digital and financial inclusion.
“A non-extension of the registration period will have led to the disenfranchisement come Wednesday (April 26) of the legion of legit SIM owners who had failed to sign up, thereby dealing a severe blow to the Marcos administration’s efforts to fast-track our country’s digital transformation,” Villafuerte said in a press statement.
He said the three-month grace period would allow the DICT, NTC and PTEs (public telecommunications entities) to further intensify their list-up drives from hereon and the government to fix hitches, such as stringent identification requirements, weak or no connectivity, and other digital challenges believed to have caused the low registry turnout.
Villafuerte, who was the law’s co-author in the House of Representatives, noted that the DICT itself pointed out that a bigger registry turnout would better provide law enforcers with the necessary tools to crack down hard on nefarious groups that have used their SIMs in their cybercrimes.
“Unti-unti nang nagiging mas ligtas ang ating digital space kaya naman patuloy naming inaanyayahan ang lahat na mag-register na para sa panatag na pagnenegosyo, pagtatrabaho, at pamumuhay (Our digital space is gradually getting safer, that’s why we continue to encourage everyone to register for an orderly environment in business, livelihood and way of life)” Villafuerte said. (With reports from Jose Cielito Reganit/Raymond Dela Cruz/PNA)