PH Internet first broached in NSC meetings, says ex-DOST chief

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Unknown to many, the first serious effort to introduce Internet in the Philippines started with discussions held at the National Security Council (NSC) regarding the telecommunications infrastructure in the country.

Eventually, the discussions led to the development of a network that initially involved the academe and ultimately branching out to commercial space.

Former DOST sec. William Padolina
Former DOST sec. William Padolina

This is according to former Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary William Padolina, who was instrumental in helping package and obtain approval for the project proposal that enabled the Philippines to connect to the Internet.

At a dinner tribute for the 20th anniversary of Internet in the Philippines at the Manila Peninsula, Padolina said it was around 1993 when then NSC chief Jose Almonte convened top officials from various agencies of the government and private sector to discuss ways to fast-track the development of the country?s telecommunications infrastructure.

?Sec. Almonte organized those meetings at the NSC offices along East Avenue in Quezon City. He asked us to propose bold programs that would allow the country to leapfrog and achieve the goals of the Ramos administration?s flagship platform Philippines 2000,? Padolina remembered.

Padolina, who was still an undersecretary then at the DOST, said that it was fortuitous that around that time, Dr. William ?Bill? Torres, who was also present in that evening?s meeting and who would soon gain fame as one of the ?Fathers of Philippine Internet? ? had begun pushing for the concept of the Internet into the country after gaining knowledge in the US about the conversion of the Internet as a research system into a commercial product.

After several meetings at DOST, Torres, a former director-general of National Computer Center during the Aquino regime and the first Filipino to acquire a PhD in computer science, led a group that packaged the proposal with the Industrial Research Foundation (IRF) as the lead and obtained approval for funding assistance from DOST.

Padolina said the DOST eventually supported the project with about a P10-million grant that enabled the project team to buy the necessary equipment and pay expensive leased line connection to the United States.

Dr. Rodolfo ?Rudy? Villarica, who is also regarded as one of the ?Fathers of the Philippine Internet,? was made the administrator of the project on behalf of the DOST.

With the IRF in place, PHNet serviced a group of universities that were part of the World Bank-financed Engineering and Science Education Project (ESEP) that included Ateneo de Manila University, De LaSalle University, and the University of the Philippines, and led the establishment of a modest network infrastructure.

Pilnet, which would later on become PHNet, is the same group that would make history as the first to connect to the Internet on March 29, 1994.

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