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Exclusive: The building blocks of a digital Philippines

Adrian M. Reodique | Jan. 24, 2017
DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima discussed the agency’s plans and vision for the ICT industry in the Philippines.

Salalima claimed that DICT is also looking to utilise the existing 5,000 to 10,000-kilometre fibre optic cables of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to make it easier for them to implement the plan, and reduce the cost of the project.

Problems in funding the NBP

Without existing cables or components, Salalima estimated that the NBP plan will likely cost PHP 77 billion to PHP 199 billion to execute, and will take three to four years to be fully implemented.

For this year, Salalima said the national government has allotted PHP 2.9 billion budget for DICT and its attached agencies. The agencies include the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Centre (CICC), and the National Privacy Commission (NPC).

Since the budget preparation came before President Duterte's mandated projects, the NBP was not part of the PHP 2.9 billion budget.

However, Salalima said the Department of Budget Management (DBM) might provide PHP 1 billion supplemental budget to kick-off the project. "I was talking with Secretary Ben Diokno of the DBM and [they said they might be able to] give us supplemental budgets for our projects. For the first year (i.e. 2017), we might need only PHP 1 billion [budget for the NBP] project [because] this is more on mobilisation of the broadband [which includes the] plans and perhaps going around the country for inspection."

Salalima added that DICT might lease on the existing cable lines from telco companies with excess capacities in some areas of the country instead of installing their own, if the move helps reduce the implementation cost.

In exchange, he said DICT might allow telcos to lease the network infrastructures of the government in some areas to offer their services. "[It's like] quid pro quo - telcos can use DICT's facility there, access it in payment for our use of their submarine [cables] in this area. [It] could be monetary or exchange of the facilities and the use of the facilities."

Aside from funding, Salalima added DICT might encounter challenges to get permits from local governments when they start implementing the project. "In putting up the broadband, you have to go throughout the countryside and get permits [like the] rights of way etc. So you have to deal with a lot of agencies and local governments, which might mean a little delay."

In response, Salalima said DICT will ask the President to issue an executive order to require the agencies, from which DICT will apply licences from, to expedite the licensing process.

More Wi-Fi Hotspots

Meanwhile, Salalima said DICT will be establishing more Wi-Fi sites in the country in the coming years.

According to the website of the Juan, Konek! Free Wi-Fi Internet Access in Public Places Project, 1,634 cities and municipalities in the Philippines have access to Wi-Fi. DICT aims to increase the number of Wi-Fi hotspots in the country this year, especially with an almost PHP 1.8 billion budget for the project. 

 

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