Independent think tank Stratbase Albert Del Rosario Institute (Stratbase ADRi) has recommended to the government the immediate implementation of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) to help ensure accelerated economic recovery that the country needs as a result of the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a recent statement, Prof. Dindo Manhit, Stratbase ADRi president, underscored the importance of executing the broadband program in addressing the soaring demand for reliable and fast broadband services needed by all sectors to sustain their respective operations.
The NBP is the government’s broadband infrastructure blueprint that requires the installation of fiber optic and wireless technologies to vastly improve internet accessibility, broadband speed, and even affordability to Filipinos.
“The innovative talent and creative skills of Filipinos is a potential that can be transformed into an economic pillar that will drive the economy in a digitalized new normal,” said Manhit.
“Our efforts to rebuild economic momentum will not happen if the country’s digital infrastructure is not ready to deliver the broadband speeds required to support a cloud-based ecosystem,” he stressed.
The IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking (WDCR) 2020 has noted that governments in Southeast Asia have allocated huge amounts to ensure an upgrade of their telecommunications infrastructure.
Malaysia has spent US$233 million to heighten coverage and broadband speed while Thailand invested heavily with US343 million to interconnect thousands of villages in the country. On the other hand, Vietnam is spending US$820 million for a 23,000-kilometer submarine cable system.
“The Philippine government should take the cue from its ASEAN neighbors who are already investing aggressively to boost broadband services to world class levels,” said Manhit.
He stated: “The implementation of NBP should be prioritized as a critical infrastructure project in the government loan portfolio that will generate long-term benefits to public and private ecosystems.”
The Department of Information and Communications has proposed P18 billion to implement the NBP but failed to get enough support from Congress, and was given less than P1.5 billion in the 2021 national budget.
Philippine telecommunication companies have reported 500 percent increase in data usage when lockdowns started last year because of the massive shift to online services to adapt to travel restrictions and work-from-home setups.
Globe Telecom president and CEO Ernest Cu said: “While the new sites will need time to be built and fired up, the recent unimpeded permitting process has proven to be a much needed catalyst for the telco industry.”
“Improving the country’s state of connectivity and internet speed is a continuing effort that requires both public and private sector support,” stated Cu.
The Ayala-led telco is boosting its investments by 250 percent in 2021 and will build 2,000 new cell towers and sites next year. It will also expand its 5G network to more localities in Metro Manila.
On the other hand, Smart Communications is allocating between P88 to P92-billion capital expenditure and will expand services to the unserved and underserved areas in the country.