Lacson tells DICT to aim for faster PH internet speed

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2020   •   314

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, on Thursday urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to aim for an “excellent” speed of internet connection.

Lacson made the remark in response to the view of DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan II that the Philippines “is not doing too badly” in terms of internet speed performance during his agency’s 2021 budget hearing in Congress.

“With all due respect to a highly regarded Cavalier and distinguished former Senate colleague, “not so bad” may sound worse than ‘not so good,’” he said in a statement.

Honasan earlier said that while other countries have 55 megabytes per second (mbps) internet speeds, the 3 to 7mbps internet speed in the country “is not that bad” amid complaints over slow speed.

“In the middle of a pandemic when the order of the day is virtual communication, what we want to hear, at least realistically, is ‘good enough,’” Lacson said.

“Of course, it goes without saying, ‘very good’ or even ‘excellent’ is what we all want to hear from DICT. Clearly, there is much room for improvement,” he added.

According to the DICT, the country’s current internet speed could reach up to 25.07mbps, compared to the maximum 7.91mbps in 2016.

The agency said the country’s slower internet connection is due to lack of telecommunications infrastructure compared to other countries that have fix broadbands which require lots of telecommunication towers and fiber optic cables.

DICT, NTC urge DPWH to amend right-of-way rules to speed up ICT infra rollout

Robie de Guzman   •   October 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Wednesday called on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to look into the feasibility of amending the policy on the right-of-way to expedite the rollout of ICT infrastructure.

In a statement, the DICT said the agency and the NTC recently wrote to the DPWH urging it to consider Department Order 73 which provides for the right-of-way rules and regulations.

The DICT said the DPWH department order currently prohibits “posts and towers of Electric Cooperatives and Major Electric Power Distribution; distribution lines; posts for cable of phones and mobile service providers” along all national roads.”

The department said this prohibition results in difficulties for public telecommunication entities as they proceed with the implementation of their roll-out plans for critical backbone and last mile connectivity. 

In its letter to DPWH Secretary Mark Villar dated Sept. 21, the DICT and NTC recalled their joint commitment under the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed during the First Philippine Telecoms Summit on May 08, 2017.

The MOA stated that the agencies agreed to amend or revise D.O. 73, s. 2014 to institute more conducive right-of-way regulations to accelerate the deployment of ICT infrastructure. 

After the MOA signing, the DPWH held various technical working group (TWG) meetings with representatives from the DICT, NTC, telcos, cable operators as well as other stakeholders. 

Proposed amendments to D.O. 73 are also highlighted as one of the priorities of the recently established Telecommunications Monitoring Group (TMG).

The TMG is an inter-agency body comprised of members from the DICT, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC), Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), and the Office of the Special Assistant to the President (OSAP).

DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said, “the indispensable use not just of telecommunications, but also of the Internet and other information services in the new normal, highlights the urgent need for equitable access to affordable, quality and reliable ICT connectivity.”

The DICT chief believes that ICT connectivity will only be possible through the accelerated rollout of ICT networks and infrastructure.

“So our priority is to develop enabling policies that address the private sectors’ complaints against red tape that serve as a cause of delay in the rollout of infrastructure for both telecommunications as well as information services,” he added.

Lacson urges Cayetano to resume House plenary session to pass 2021 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday called on House leaders to resume plenary sessions and approve the proposed 2021 national budget this month to avoid having a re-enacted spending plan next year.

Lacson said the House of Representatives is supposed to transmit the General Appropriations Bill to the Senate between Oct. 12 to 14 but House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano suspended the sessions this week amid the chamber’s speakership row.

The senator said he has already reached out to Cayetano to suggest the resumption of sessions to pass the budget bill on third and final reading.

“I have just suggested to the Speaker if it’s possible for him to resume their session, which is merely suspended and not adjourned, before All Saints’ Day just to approve on third and final reading the House version of the budget measure and thereafter transmit the same to us,” Lacson said.

The budget proposal was approved on second reading prior to the suspension of sessions.

Cayetano insisted that the abrupt suspension would only delay the transmission of the budget bill to the Senate for a day which was disputed by senators.

“Between Oct. 12 and 14 when the Senate is originally scheduled to receive the transmittal of the General Appropriations Bill from the House of Representatives, and Nov. 17 when the Speaker said they will be able to transmit the same to us, is definitely not a one-day difference as claimed by Speaker Cayetano,” Lacson said.

“I also told him the senators, especially the finance committee vice chairpersons, need at least one week to study the House version and submit to the mother committee our reports. Another week will be needed for the finance committee to consolidate everything and file its committee report,” he added.

Lacson said that in doing so, the Senate will be able to start floor debates immediate when it resumes session on Nov. 16.

Under the law, the House must first approve on final reading the budget bill before the Senate can tackle the measure.

Congress needs to pass the bill and transmit it for the president’s signature before the current government spending expires on Dec. 31.

“That is the only way we can ensure the timely passage of the budget measure. We cannot afford an impasse involving the most important piece of legislation that Congress has to pass: the national budget,”

If no new appropriations plan will be passed, the government will be forced to operate on a re-enacted budget that does not provide for COVID-19 response projects.

Lacson believes Task Force PhilHealth found enough evidence to indict Duque

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 5, 2020

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Task Force PhilHealth has found enough evidence to indict Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III.

In a statement, Lacson said Duque and former PhilHealth Senior Vice President Rodolfo del Rosario may still face charges amid the alleged mass corruption in the said agency.

The senator said they based it on inside information that Senate President Vicente Sotto III received from a trusted source.

“Ayoko pangunahan ang task force pero ito na-share ni Senate President na nai-share sa kaniya ng isang mapagkatiwalaang source niya sa task force na sinabi nila aabutin ng ebidensya si Secretary Duque, pati si Senior Vice President del Rosario, (I don’t want to preempt the task force but this is what the Senate President shared which he received from a trusted source in the task force. They said the evidence could drag Secretary Duque and Senior Vice President del Rosario into the case),” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, the Task Fore PhilHealth said it is prepared to discuss the evidence that the senators have as the investigation continues. Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they will still look into the previous corruption issues in PhilHealth.

“Patuloy po itong gagawin at marami pa pong mga pangalan siguro ang mga lilitaw sa mga susunod na araw (We will continue this and there are still names that will surface in the coming days),” he said.

Guevarra said the DOJ they will still submit more complaints to the Office of the Ombudsman this week.

Department of Health (DOH) Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said Secretary Duque is prepared to face the allegations.

“Mas makikita natin talaga ang totoo kapag ginawa ito. Wala po tayong tinututulan diyan at tayo po ay makikipagtulungan (We would be able to clearly see the truth if we do [the investigation]. We are not stopping anyone and we are willing to cooperate). The Secretary of Health maintains his innocence on this,” she said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed malversation and graft charges against former PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales and eight other PhilHealth officials due to alleged irregularities in the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM). AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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