Thursday, February 22, 2024

Proposed 2014 budget allows solons to use pork barrel for Internet access

Undeterred by the current controversy on the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Malacanang has submitted to Congress a proposed 2014 national budget which contains an option for legislators to provide free Internet access in public places using their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The PDAF, better known as pork barrel, is a lump-sum appropriation in the annual national budget to fund the priority development programs and projects of the government. The executive department has proposed a P2.268-trillion budget for 2014, which Congress must approve first.

According to ICT Office (ICTO) executive director Louis Casambre, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) broached the proposal to enable lawmakers to include Internet access among their pet projects.

?Our office is the designated implementing agency, and we’re of course very excited with the prospect of more Filipinos getting access to the Web,? Casambre wrote in an online forum.

The ICTO chief said legislators can use the PDAF option to deploy free Internet connection in public places such as plazas, schools, and libraries.

With the available funds, Casambre said the ICTO is hoping to kickstart the use TV White Space technologies ? unused TV channels — to reach far-flung areas of the country.

Casambre said the PDAF option ? in case it is approved — would be a welcome development since the Digital Empowerment Fund has been cut to P5.4 billion spread over three years.

At the National ICT Summit held in June, Casambre revealed that the government had an P8-billion Digital Empowerment Fund which agencies can tap to procure digital devices.

He said the ICTO is looking at using the fund to conduct the pilot test of CloudTop technology, which the agency is developing in collaboration with the DBM and Department of Education.

With the PDAF option on the national budget, the ICTO appears to be taking the same successful tack taken by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) last year when it was able to convince Congress to approve a massive P1.7-billion funding for the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes (PCARI), which was classified under CHED?s locally funded projects.

The amount, according to Senate S&T chair Edgardo Angara, was the single biggest outlay for research and development (R&D) in the country.

CHED chair Patricia Licuanan said PCARI is a partnership between selected Philippine Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the Universities of California, Berkeley and San Francisco.

The project is said to be patterned after many partnerships seen in neighboring countries such as those between the National University of Singapore and Duke University; or Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University.

PCARI’s vision is to develop and create a critical pool of scientists and research, address pressing issues and market technologies to other countries.

Under the program, two institutions will be formed: the Institute for Information Infrastructure Development which will focus on e-government and e-learning and the Institute for Health, Innovation and Translational Medicine which will focus on advancing health care in the Philippines.

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