MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said kicking out the foreign contractor supposedly tasked to import telecom equipment will have “no effect” on the government’s free Wi-Fi project.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement after Department and Information and Communication Technology (DICT) Secretary Gringo Honasan asked the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to return the PHP1.3-billion fund earmarked for free WiFi project, saying it is capable to finish the project on its own.
“Wala pong epekto ‘yan. Baka siguro mapapabilis pa nga (That won’t have any effect. It might even hasten the rollout of the free WiFi project),” Roque said in a press briefing in Parañaque City.
Roque reiterated his dismay over the fact that only 10,000 out of 120,000 sites have acquired free WiFi access.
“Again, as one of the primary authors of the free WiFi law, bago pa po ako pumunta ng Malacañang e kinakalampag na namin ang DICT dahil ang expectation namin e mabilis po mapapatupad itong batas na ito (even before I was assigned in Malacañang I have been reminding the DICT because our expectation is the law can be implemented immediately),” he said.
He said further delay in the implementation of the project is “unacceptable.”
“I think it is very clear na (that) since the right to connectivity, the right to the internet is a human right, hindi po katanggap-tanggap yung delay na nangyayari pagdating sa pagpapatupad ng isang batas (a delay in the implementation of the law is unacceptable,” he added.
On Monday, Roque said the government is considering scrapping a deal with multinational contractor Speedcast over its slow rollout of the country’s free WiFi project.
“With this latest controversy, ang posisyon po talaga ng Presidente at ng DICT ay itigil na iyong involvement nitong current contractor, na foreign contractor na ito at ibalik na iyong mga pera na naibayad na sa kanila dahil pupuwede na pong ipagpatuloy iyan ng ating DICT (With this latest controversy, the position of the President and the DICT is to stop the involvement of the current foreign contractor and retrieve the money given to them because the DICT can take over the project),” he said.
He expressed confidence in the DICT’s capability to roll out the project.
“Ngayon po eh may ganiyang kakayahan na mag-roll out ang DICT at sa katunayan po na sa taong 2020 alone eh nakapag-install po ang DICT nang 500 percent more Wi-Fi sites compared doon sa mga total na in-install nitong foreign contractor na ito from the year 2015 to 2019 (Now, DICT has such the ability to roll out and in fact, in the year 2020 alone, DICT was able to install 500 percent more Wi-Fi sites compared to the total installed by this foreign contractor from the year 2015 to 2019),” he added.
Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 10929 or the “Free WiFi for All” program in August 2017 in a bid to accelerate the Philippine government’s efforts in enhancing internet accessibility for Filipinos.
RA 10929 mandates the government, including local government units (LGUs), to provide free internet access in government offices and public places.
The law also sets the minimum internet speed per user in accordance with the National Broadband Plan, which should be at least two megabits per second (2 Mbps). (PNA)