Philippines submits mandatory SIM card registration bill to Senate

4 Oct 2016

The Philippine News Agency reports that the legislature has filed a bill in the Senate in a bid to implement a mandatory SIM card registration scheme in the country. Under Senate Bill No. 1160, Senator Loren Legarda said that anyone buying a SIM will be required to sign a control-numbered registration form used by the respective public telecommunications entity (PTE) of the card being purchased. Amid concerns over the risk of the nefarious misuse of SIM cards (e.g. terror threats, text scams), the new bill will require PTEs to collect registration forms from direct sellers and submit a copy to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). Further, they will also be required to submit an updated SIM card registration of their subscribers to NTC every six months, the paper notes, while in the case of loss or any change in the information after the acquisition of the SIM card, the subscriber must notify the PTEs within 30 days from such loss or change. ‘If we can make post-paid mobile subscribers submit identification, why can’t we do the same for pre-paid mobile phone users?’ Legarda said.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August last year the Senate opened discussions on what was to be known as the new Cellphone Registration Act. In presenting the draft bill, the chairman of the Committee on Public Services, Senator Vicente Sotto III, said that the measures needed to be taken to stop SIM cards being used for things such as triggering bombs, identity theft through SIM swap scams and other crimes. With more than 100 million pay-as-you-go SIMs in operation in the Philippines, the government is actively looking to ensure that users register their cellphone numbers and details, although critics of the plan are unsure as to how the state can guarantee that the personal database of user information is both secure and protected against leaks.

A number of leading telcos initially opposed the bill, arguing that people’s rights to communicate with one another freely would be threatened by the new Act. The Philippine Chamber of Telecommunication Operators (PCTO) said at the time that while it backs any measure that would reduce crime associated with SIM cards, it did not agree with the proposed method of registration. Others against mandatory SIM card registration also pointed to high profile failures of registration schemes in the United Kingdom, Mexico and Kenya, which they said have done little to deter crime.