Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Recto: Creating DICT will allow DOTC to focus on transport mess

One “good side effect” of creating a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is that the present Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) will be streamlined into a Department of Transportation whose sole focus is fixing the nation’s transportation woes.

Sen. Ralph Recto during the most recent hearing on the DICT bill at the Senate
Sen. Ralph Recto during the most recent hearing on the DICT bill at the Senate

In his speech sponsoring the bill creating the DITC, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto explained that units of the DOTC with functions and responsibilities dealing with communications will be folded into the new department.

The rest of the DOTC offices will comprise the new Department of Transportation, Recto said.

“The downsized Transportation department can then concentrate in solving our many transportation problems,” he said.

“It will now have the undivided attention and the narrowed mandate to ensure that trains run on time, run on new tracks, and not run off them; that the shipping industry is buoyant and ships afloat, literally; that jeeps don’t cut trips, buses don’t cut lives short, and transport officials don’t take a cut,” Recto said in urging his colleagues to approve Senate Bill 2686.

“It will have its hands full in regulating our almost 8 million motor vehicles and 1 million registered for-hire vehicles, in attending to the needs of our 55 million air passengers and the 54 million who ride ships,” Recto said.

The DICT will be established by merging the Information and Communications Technology Office, National Computer Center, National Computer Institute, Telecommunications Office and National Telecommunications Training Institute.

To be attached to it, for policy and program coordination purposes only, are National Telecommunications Commission, National Privacy Commission and Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center.

All work related to cybersecurity, including the formulation of the National Cybersecurity Plan and the formation of a National Computer Emergency Response Team, which Recto described as “our IT Special Action Forces”, will be transferred to the new department.

One of the reasons why a DICT must be formed is the need “to have a digital sentinel,” Recto said.

“We live in an era when terrorists don’t have to blast bank doors to do mayhem but simply unleash a virus that could shred or suck out financial data. An enemy with a missile is as dangerous as one with malware,” the senator stressed in his speech.

Forming the new Department of Transportation are the Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board for motor vehicles;

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Manila International Airport Authority, Clark International Airport Corporation, Civil Aeronautics Board, Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority, Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation for the air sector;

Rail agencies like Philippine National Railways, Light Rail Transit Authority, North Luzon Railways Corporation and Metro Rail Transit;

Maritime offices like Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Ports Authority, Maritime Industry Authority, Cebu Ports Authority and Philippine Merchant Marine Academy.

They will be joined by Office for Transportation Security, Toll Regulatory Board, Office of Transportation Cooperatives in the new department.

Downplaying concerns that the DICT will create red tape and expenses, Recto said “it will not birth a huge bureaucracy, nor burn a deep hole in the taxpayer’s pocket.”

“It will have the same, if not smaller, budgetary footprint, as what the affected agencies together have. Not a single new centavo will be appropriated in starting up DICT. It will just use the budget of offices to be abolished,” he said.

“The idea is to create a small but smart workforce. We’re limiting the number of undersecretaries and top officials. The creation of regional offices is not mandatory, but optional,” Recto explained.

Recto cited the growing role of ICT (information and communications technology) in society in pushing for the creation of an agency dedicated to its growth and development.

“There are more cellphone subscriptions than Filipinos today -114 million accounts versus 105 million souls. Overall, 4 in 10 have access to the Internet,” he said.

“But more than these, ICT is putting people to work, taxes in government coffers, money in the economy, and hope in our country’s future,” he said.

Income from outsourcing – the BPOs, the call centers, the back offices, medical transcription, game development, creative process outsourcing, to name a few – by Recto’s projection, will reach $25 billion or 8 percent of GDP next year.

The sector employs a million Filipinos, more if ancillary services are included. “One in four jobs today are occupied by knowledge workers,” Recto said.

It is the third largest source of dollars – after electronics and OFW remittances -and “is a proven growth driver.”

“Every 10 percentage points increase in broadband penetration is said to boost the GDP by 1 percent,” Recto stressed.

“But to respond to the above challenges, we need a main server, so to speak, to spur ICT development, institutionalize e-government, and manage the country’s ICT environment and direction — and that is the DICT.”

Previous bills creating the DICT had hurdled crucial phases of legislation in the past, like being passed by the House and the Senate, “only to flounder in the last minute for lack of time,” Recto noted.

“This time, let us give it the final push. If we can bring this to the President’s table by June, then we are time-on-target,” he said.


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