ABALOS BARES EFFORTS IN FOSTERING SMART CITIES
The Manila Times
INTERIOR Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. disclosed the government’s efforts in nurturing smart cities and sustainable communities through a series of initiatives, with an emphasis on digitalization, dynamic innovation, and enhanced connectivity. Speaking during The Manila Times Philippine Model Cities and Municipalities 2023 event, Abalos highlighted the local government units’ (LGUs) efforts to streamline regulatory processes in accordance with Republic Act 11032, also known as the “Ease of Doing Business Act.” He emphasized that during his tenure as Mandaluyong City mayor, he promptly addressed public complaints when LGU offices failed to adhere to the law. Unnecessary permits Furthermore, Abalos cited Executive Order (EO) 32, signed by the President in July, which simplified permit processes for the construction of telecommunications and internet infrastructure. This EO eliminated the need for additional national or local permits, stating that only those mandated by law would be required. “Usually, when erecting telecom towers, there’s an abundance of red tape. Thanks to this executive order, requirements have been reduced, and we anticipate improved interconnectivity,” Abalos said. As of September 15 this year, 8,311 permits for telecom towers have been approved across 668 cities and municipalities, with 2,404 permits still under processing in 229 cities and municipalities. Abalos also emphasized the department’s vigilance, noting that delays might lead to show-cause orders. Digitalization efforts Abalos also highlighted efforts to implement digital or electronic systems for business registration, renewal, and local tax assessment and collection. This shift toward cashless payments aligns with EO 170. “We have a collaborative initiative with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas called Paleng-QR. Shoppers in markets can now make purchases without cash. Several LGUs across the country are adopting cashless transactions through this system,” he explained. Abalos revealed partnerships with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), such as eReport, which facilitates quick responses from police and fire stations during emergencies, and the eLGU System, which digitizes a wide range of local government services. “Connectivity is a priority for our country right now,” Abalos pointed out. Rapid police response He praised notable police practices, including Antipolo City’s red button in small stores to alert the police to thefts and Quezon City’s use of drones for rapid police responses, suggesting that these practices be replicated in other areas. In related developments, the department issued a memorandum urging all cities and municipalities to mandate the installation of CCTV systems by businesses before granting business permits. Abalos expressed intentions to discuss with Metro Manila mayors and the MMDA the establishment of a unified CCTV system to interconnect security measures across the metropolis. Abalos also shared his observations of Dubai’s security systems and practices, considering them a potential template for future innovations within the Philippine government.