Philippines prepares for nationwide rollout of 911 hotline

Eden Estopace
eGov Innovation

The Philippines’ Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), operators, private organizations, media partners and other government agencies have started testing the nation's new 911 emergency hotline.

The new emergency hotline will be rolled out nationwide on August 1. The new service was made possible by an agreement signed by the the different government agencies including the DILG, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The agencies were responding to the instruction of newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte to designate a number people can call in response to a national disaster.

Other signing agencies were the Foundation for Crime Prevention (FCP), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP).

The agreement covers the transition to make the existing 117 hotline and the new 911 emergency hotlines accessible to call for the general public through each party’s respective networks.

The DILG said the existing 117 hotline will be utilized for 911 hotline operation starting next month. The current hotline has 15 seats, 43 agents and database of Philippine National Police (PNP) units, including their mobile, local government Units and its emergency numbers and teleconference capability.

Retired General Eliseo Rio Jr. of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and currently consultant to 117, said that after August 1, the current 15 seats will increase to 30 and the existing 43 call center agents will be increased to 90.

The country’s two leading telecommunications players - PLDT and Globe Telecom - both expressed support for the government project. In a statement, Globe’s Legal Counsel Froilan Castelo said the company is ready to comply with the government directive to provide access to 911 and 8888 numbers for government emergency hotline and complaint hotline.

Globe has long used the 8888 number as its own customer hotline. However, the company will give way to the government request and will instead change to a new hotline number for its more than 57 million customers.

At the start of the testing period last week, DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno reportedly called 911 twice using a landline and a cellular phone in the presence of officials from concerned agencies to see how the operation will flow.

The test calls - as well as the simulation exercises that will be made between July 21 to July 31 - seek to close possible gaps that will be encountered once 911 goes public.