‘MISINFORMATION?’: City council slams telco companies over Dinagyang signal shutdown

The Iloilo City Council holds a consultative meeting on Thursday, Jan 26, 2023 over the Dinagyang signal shutdown which affected not just Iloilo City, but neighboring towns and Guimaras province as well. (John Noel E. Herrera photo)

By John Noel E. Herrera

In a consultative meeting on Thursday, Jan 26, 2023, the Iloilo City Council slammed telecommunication companies in the city after explaining that they were incapable of implementing selective signal shut down during the recent Dinagyang Festival.

A representative from Globe Telecommunications explained that they needed to shut down not just the cell sites in the specific areas requested by the Philippine National Police (PNP), but also in some other locations or towns, as these cell sites outside the area could still transmit signals to the city area.

“Ang natabo is that prior to the start of the event, everytime maka-receive kami signal (from other areas going to Iloilo City), gina-shutdown na siya namon. In terms of signal, the cellsite’s means of transmission is through radio waves, so not necessarily nga kung amu lang ni ang patyon mo, mapatay na dayon ang sa diri nga area,” Globe Telecom’s representative Ariel Aruero explained.

“So for us, part of which, may mga reflected signals na di nga galab-ot pa di sa Iloilo City, so as mandated dapat no signal sa Iloilo City, so pati didto gin patay man namon and the same with other neighboring towns,” he added.

Councilor Nick Baronda also said that the telco providers should have informed them of the situation, citing that their decisions regarding the shutdown could have been changed way before the Dinagyang Festival started.

“Sadtong pag committee hearing ta, tani naghambal kamo nga hindi gali pwede, para nga ang amon desisyon sadto mabase dira. Kun naghambal kamo nga it cannot be done, then we could have made some adjustments or decisions or the police could be informed that it cannot be done, tani ang desisyon namon basi lain. Ang natabo is we are misinformed,” Baronda stressed.

Councilor Sedfrey Cabaluna also emphasized that the gap in the information from the telecommunication companies could have made the city council decide better, instead of making it appear that they disinformed the public.

“Pamatyagan namon is we were not informed. That is why a decision was made on that, and yet in reality it was not. Kulang ang information nga gin-hatag halin sa inyo because you were the experts. Amu to ang lak-ang or the gap that the information should have been provided to the council, making us decide much better,” Cabaluna said.

“We could have informed our people much better. Gin-pagwa niyo nga sala ang information dissemination sang syudad kay the city government made both identifying areas to make the people aware that these areas will not have communications, so daw gin-himo niyo kami butigon. Gin-himo niyo man ang council that we were not informed,” he added.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC)-6, on the other hand, explained that they were only tasked to monitor the compliance of the telecommunication companies with the approved request for the signal shutdown.

“Ang gin-himo naton diri sa regional office is gina-monitor gid naton ang specific areas, gina-make sure gid naton nga wala sang signal because it is requested, so kinahanglan wala gid da sang signal,” NTC-6 OIC Leah Dela Cruz-Doromal said.

NTC-6 added that the telecommunication entities also complied with the directive of the commission that there would be no signal within the said identified areas during specific times and dates.

NTC-6 also emphasized that it is not possible for the telecommunication entities to only shut down the signal in specific locations, as they also needed to shut down some cell sites from neighboring areas which are transmitting long-range radio signals to the identified areas.

The areas supposedly covered by the signal shutdown as requested by the PNP and endorsed by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas and the City Council were City Proper and Mandurriao districts, where the highlights of Dinagyang Festival were held.

But it turned out that even some neighboring Iloilo towns and Guimaras province were also affected.

The signal shutdown also met mixed reactions from the public due to the inconvenience caused to services, including in the health care and food delivery sectors.

Treñas also said in a statement that he recognized the public inconvenience of the signal shutdown and declared that he would no longer endorse the move for the 2024 Dinagyang Festival should the Iloilo City Police Office send a request.