Sagada villagers demand increase in cell site rental
By GINA DIZON
SAGADA, Mountain Province — Following the loss of communications signal of a major telecom company last Thursday June 14, representatives of Smart telecom arrived here to meet with the land owners and barangay officials of the area where their cell site is located, to hear their demand for increased rental among others.
In their negotiations held at the municipal hall, barangay officials led by barangay Balugan chairman John Polon put forward a proposal for an increased rental from P40,000 a year to P50,000 a month while land owner Bernard Batnag asked to increase rent from P50,000 a year to P100,000 a month.
Security Manager Ariel Emock who spoke for Smart said it would be difficult to lay basis for an increase of rentals but he will recommend the proposed rates from both the barangay officials and the land claimant.
Polon and Batnag said the company has been adding disk plates and other antenna without the community people’s consent. They said added antenna and disc plates apparently connected to other cell signals lay one basis for increased rental aside from wide and increased reach of air time users.
In a separate interview, former barangay captain John Yogawen and other former officials said the company took advantage of the ignorance of the people on cell site rentals.
Batnag feels the same way. He said his father having agreed on a P50,000 rent a year was low, compared to other rentals of cell sites. His father’s 15 year contract of lease with Smart ended May 2012. Not having arrived at an agreement the negotiations was moved to July 11 this year.
Smart pays real property tax to the LGU here and was given a copy of the aerial wealth ordinance by the Sangguniang Bayan for their information and compliance, said vice mayor Richard Yodong .
Smart negotiations began in 1996 with the community of Balugan and the land claimant which led to the building of the cell site tower in 1998 atop Mt Pakad 1900 meters above sea level. The tower overlooks the municipalities of Mountain Province including Tadian, Bauko, Sabangan, Sagada, Besao and the fringes between Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Quirino, Abra, and Apayao.
Initial rent was pegged at P8,000 a year which increased to P12,000 a year over a 25 year contract. Apart from the yearly rent, Smart promised the following benefits to the community: communication center in Balugan: scholarships, medical mission, and employment. The promised benefits has not been given except employment of two security guards at the tower site.
With the nod of elders, the telecommunications tower was eventually erected in 1998 and activated in 2001. It was also during this time that payment for two years which had not been paid from 1998 to year 2000 was paid.
In year 2001, the community wanted the rent to increase to P100,000 a year. Lawyer Anthony Fernandez representing SMART, negotiated with the people resulting to the increase of rent from P20,000 to P40,000 per year with an escalation rate of 10% every year.
The earlier Agreement was revised and eventually signed by barangay officials in 2001. John Yogawen said the written Agreement was brought to the head office for their signatures. He said Smart officers promised to return the copy of the MOA to the people but was never returned till now. # nordis.net