MANILA – The Senate is moving to increase the government’s first-ever planned spending on telecommunications infrastructure to PHP5.9 billion, to speed up the rollout of services in underprivileged areas, now that connectivity has become a basic necessity.
“I am happy to announce that with the help of my fellow senators, we pushed for the increase in the budget allocation for the national broadband because the NEP (National Expenditure Program) only gave about PHP900 million which is actually quite laughable,” Senator Grace Poe said at the Senate committee on public services that she chairs on Monday.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said the government has not invested a cent for the development of internet services in the country and investments in internet infrastructure have been made by big businesses.
The 2021 national budget being discussed now is the first time that such an investment is being included in the government’s budget.
Poe said the initial request for the national budget was for PHP20 billion.
“We increased that to at least PHP5.9 billion for 2021. This is just for the first phase. We have to contend with the DICT’s absorptive capacity which is why we didn’t go all out,” Poe said.
According to NTC data, the Vietnamese government has invested USD820 million (PHP39.4 billion) for internet development, Malaysia has invested USD233.6 million (PHP11.2 billion), Thailand has spent USD343 million (PHP16.5), and Singapore has invested USD1.7 billion (PHP81.6 billion).
Vietnam’s USD820-million investment is for a 23,000-kilometer submarine cable while Thailand’s USD343-million budget is to ensure the internet broadband connectivity of 24,700 villages.
The problems stemming from the lack of internet connectivity are felt in education and the toll there is heavy and will be felt for generations to come.
“We need to look at internet connectivity as a basic necessity and government should ensure access to it especially for the underprivileged if only to make education accessible to the poor,” Poe said. (PNA)