Senate to hike gov’t telecoms spending to P5.9 B

Published December 7, 2020, 3:30 PM

by Mario Casayuran

The Senate will increase government’s first-ever planned spending on telecommunications infrastructure to P5.9 billion to speed up the rollout of services in underprivileged areas now that connectivity has become a basic necessity, Sen. Grace Poe said today.

“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 P900 million which is actually quite laughable,” Poe during a public hearing  by the Senate Committee on Public Services that she chairs.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said government has not invested a cent for the development of Internet services in the country and investments on Internet infrastructure has been made by big businesses. 

The proposed 2021 P4.5-trillion national budget being discussed now is the first time that such an investment is being included in government’s budget.

Poe said the initial request in the national budget for national broadband was P20 billion.

“We increased that to at least P5.9 billion for 2021. This is just for the first phase. We have to contend with the DICT’s (Department of Information and Communications Technology) absorptive capacity which is why we didn’t go all out,” Poe said.

According to NTC data, the Vietnamese government has invested $820 million for Internet development, Malaysia has invested $233.6 million, Thailand has spent $343 million, and Singapore has invested $1.7 billion.

Vietnam’s $820-million investment is for a 23,000-kilometer submarine cable while Thailand’s $343-million budget is to ensure the Internet broadband connectivity of 24,700 villages.

The problems stemming from the lack of Internet connectivity is felt in education and the toll there is heavy and will be felt for generations to come, Poe said.

“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 added.