The budget for the National Broadband Program (NBP) was doubled from P902.194 million to P1.9 billion under the recently ratified P4.5-trillion general appropriations bill according to Finance Committee chair Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Sunday.

“We need to really ramp up our internet infrastructure. It’s one of the needs of our country. When you talk about Build, Build, Build, you don’t just look at roads, you don’t just look at buildings, but you also look at the actual internet infrastructure because that will provide greater investments,” he said.

The lawmaker also emphasized that the increase in the 2021 NBP budget will not only improve the internet services even in far-flung areas, but will also bring more higher-paying jobs in the country.

Initially, the Senate and House of Representatives increased the budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to a combined P5 billion, but the bicameral committee slashed the increase to a mere P956 million.

During his interpellation of the bicameral conference report on the 2021 budget bill, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson criticized the P1.9 billion ratified budget for being way below the needed P18 billion to fully implement the NBP, which could bring savings of up to P34 billion in favor of the government in the next five years as per DICT’s projection.

Unlike in the Philippines, where the construction of network infrastructures are dependent on the initiatives of the private sector, the NTC noted that we could learn from top countries from Asia with high internet speed like South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand, where building of cell sites, among others, is government-driven.

The NTC further added that investment on the access in country’s networks must be bigger given that we only have 22,500 cell sites compared to Vietnam’s 80,000.

The acceleration of building more towers is only one of the six national broadband plan components- National Fiber Optic Cable Backbone, Cable Landing Stations, Accelerated Fiber Build, Satellite Overlay, and Broadband Delivery Management Service.

“President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive is very clear- to improve Internet connectivity in the Philippines to help the Filipino people better adapt to the new normal. That is why the DICT is doubling its efforts in accelerating the implementation of various digital connectivity initiatives, especially the National Broadband Program,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said. PMRT

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