The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) promised that calls to the 911 and 8888 emergency numbers would soon be free of charge, GMA 7 late night news program “24 Oras” reported on Friday.
The DILG has started drafting the Executive Order that would make the hotline calls free, with the government shouldering the expenses for the 911 and 8888 calls.
As to whether PLDT and Smart were willing to make access to the said hotline numbers free, PLDT Group spokesperson Ramon Isberto told GMA News Online that they were "willing to comply," and that they were waiting for the EO that would formally establish the 911 system.
For now, "the existing fee charges under the 117 system will still be continued during the transition stage to the 911 system pending the issuance of a new EO with its implementing rules and memorandum of agreement as entered between the government and the telecommunications companies," the DILG said in a statement.
Globe earlier advised its subscribers that it would charge an additional P5 per call on top of regular voice charges for 911 calls.
The telecom explained that the P5 charge was based on government directives.
"These are government hotline numbers. This is not run by the private companies. So, ang ano natin diyan kung ang gobyerno ay magpapabayad e 'di magbabayad," Globe SVP for Corporate Communications Yolly Crisanto added.
Meanwhile, the Bayan Muna partylist was opposed to the hotline-number charges. "I cannot understand bakit pahihirapan mo pa ang mamamayan kung naghihingalo ka na at kailangan mo i-dial ang 911 kung wala kang P5 mamamatay ka na lang," said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate.
Meanwhile, the imposition of penalties for prank calls were also being studied, given that 10 percent of the 3,500 average daily calls to the 117 hotline were pranks.
Starting August, the public can use the 911 hotline for emergencies, and the 8888 hotline for complaints. — DVM, GMA News