Manila, Philippines — Two of the country’s largest Internet Service Providers (ISP) and wireless telecommunications companies are now offering free phone calls and SMS to their respective subscribers affected by the Marawi crisis.
Smart Communications, a wholly owned wireless communications and digital services subsidiary of PLDT, said in a press statement that starting on Friday June 23, the residents in Marawi City who are Smart, TNT and Sun prepaid subscribers can take advantage of its free calls and texts messaging services within the three aforementioned networks for the next 15 days.
the telco also stated that the service is open to residents still caught in Marawi crisis, as well as residents who have evacuated the besieged town.
Smart added that eligible subscribers will be receiving a notification within the next few days to inform them how they can avail of the call and SMS services without incurring charges.
“We realize that mobile communication serves as a vital lifeline in disaster and crisis situations,” said PLDT and Smart Communications Public Affairs Head Ramon Isberto. “By providing our special service to those affected by the ongoing conflict in Marawi, we enable our brothers and sisters to reconnect with their loved ones and draw strength from each other in these trying times.”
PLDT’s telco added that it has put up “Libreng Tawag” (Free Call) stations at evacuation centers in Iligan City and assisted in distributing relief goods and personal hygiene kits at evacuation centers situated in Lanao del Norte.
Smart Communications’ move comes after the Ayala-led telco Globe Telecom announced on June 22 that it will offer free call and text services in Marawi City as part of the efforts to assist troops and civilians connect with authorities as well as to their loved ones.
The Ayala-owned wireless carrier said that prepaid subscribers will be able to send SMS to all networks and make calls to all Globe and TM subscribers at no additional cost – even without any remaining prepaid balance on their account. However, mobile data usage will not be covered in the promo.
The assistance started on Thursday, June 22, and will run for the next 15 days. Afterwards, Globe Telecom will evaluate extending the offer depending on the state of crisis in Marawi City.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed the said assistance, saying it would be an encouragement to the soldiers’ morale.
It would also help the estimated 300-500 residents still trapped in Marawi, who may have no means to communicate their location or their status.
Globe Telecom President and CEO Ernest Cu said that the firm had initially opted to send out SIM cards and prepaid load cards to Marawi City, but found it would take more time to transport the packages.
“We thought it would be faster and cover more people if we just opened up our networks. So, when our cell towers in the Marawi area recognize a Globe SIM, it will not be charged for calls or texts,” Ernesto Cu said.
Tanjuan assured security would be the top priority of the AFP. Cell towers, both of Globe and Smart telcos, will still be shut down whenever the military force has to conduct special operations in the war-torn city of Marawi.