By Joe Zaldarriaga

SIM registration brings safer space to PH mobile users

January 24, 2023, 11:19 am

Before 2022 came to a close, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. signed into law the Republic Act 11934 or the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act which mandates mobile owners to register their sim cards within a certain time frame, or face deactivation.

The new law, which was one of the first enacted measures under the administration, aims to promote responsibility in the use of SIM and provide law enforcement agencies the tools to resolve crimes involving its use. It also punishes fraudulent registration and allows law enforcement to pull up a user's data to investigate any crimes committed involving the use of phones.

Under the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the National Telecommunications Commission, registration period will be until April 26, 2023, and may be extended for 120 days.

As of this writing, NTC reported that 21 million subscribers have already registered, representing roughly 12.5 percent of the 169 million SIM cards nationwide. The agency said that despite the initial glitches, this was “on track” with their expectations.

Wireless communications provider Smart Communications Inc., a unit of PLDT Inc., said it has so far registered 10 million Smart and TNT customers across the country, the highest among all telco operators.

Smart and TNT also put forward their efforts to accelerate SIM registration across the country, with a recent online event called “Sulong SIM Registration,” touted as the first ever local government cascade on SIM Registration among Philippine telcos, which drew close to a thousand LGU executives from provincial governments to barangay officials in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Additionally, Smart was also reported to be the first telco to set up assisted SIM Registration booths and touchpoints all over the country. This is parallel to its mission of helping Smart and TNT customers needing information on how to register their SIM, as well as provide physical assistance to customers with special circumstances—seniors, persons with disabilities and those still using basic phones.

These booths will be part of the simultaneous roll-out of SIM registration activities in geographically isolated and disadvantaged and conflict-affected areas (GIDCA) identified by the Philippine government. NTC has already identified 45 remote areas across 15 regions.

Truly a pioneering move by Smart, if I may say, on top of the continued efforts to encourage subscribers from all parts of the country to adhere to the new law, as part of its consumer protection initiatives.

Smart already came up with quite a number of programs geared towards this - some of which I was made aware of since I too, along with millions of Filipinos, have fallen prey and received text scams. The telco stated that some of their efforts include blocking SIMs that send ‘smishing’ messages and Uniform Resource Locators (URL) or links that lead to illegal activities, to help safeguard the public against emerging cyberthreats, vulnerabilities, and other online criminal activities. There were also numerous reminders on how we can protect ourselves from scams- posted on Smart sites and other channels.

First, is to be aware of how scammers victimize people. This can be through SMS phishing or voice phishing- wherein attackers attempt to get OTPs or passwords via different strategies. Block numbers that send spam or call asking for personal information. This puts our mobile numbers out of attackers’ range.

Never share your password or one-time pin (OTP) as a reply to a random message. Be very suspicious of calls, e-mails, SMS, or social media messages asking for this information. Moreover, only input your password or OTP in official and legitimate websites and platforms.

Also, don’t click links that are suspicious. Always be wary of links that you receive via text from unknown numbers.

Once the law comes into full effect, the SIM Registration Act will enable authorities to more easily identify a mobile user engaged in online fraud in the country, thus will effectively curtail scam activities that have since been a problem in the Philippines. Efficient implementation of the law and its provisions are essential, especially as there were privacy concerns raised.

Both the government and the private telcos who have access to personal information, must guarantee security and proper use. As for us mobile users, let us do our part and ensure that we register, while remaining vigilant and hopeful that this new law brings about a safer connected space for all of us.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.