House ICT panel wants National Broadband Program fast-tracked

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The information and communications technology (ICT) committee of the House of Representatives said the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) should speed up the deployment of the National Broadband Program (NBP) to enhance the mitigation efforts on the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What we need with the NBP is for this to take off immediately. The Internet connectivity really needs to be addressed especially na ang NBP ay kasama sa New Normal bill,” Tarlac representative and ICT committee chair Victor A. Yap said during an online meeting on Tuesday, May 12.

The NBP is expected to provide faster and efficient broadband connectivity to all public sectors and public segments of the country, particularly for public hospitals, rural health units, public schools and other public places, according to the DICT.

DICT executives reported to the committee that the agency has already tested 158 dark fiber segments of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and completed construction of the cable landing stations at Baler Aurora and Poro Point, La Union.

DICT undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said the NBP can decongest the National Capital Region by directing industries to potential cities that will encourage more people to support the government’s “Balik Probinsya” program.

Party-list representative Sharon Garin the NBP has a crucial role to play in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. “If we don’t want infections to rise in the Philippines, if we want to keep people at home or keep on the quarantine, DICT is the most important department right now,” Garin said.

Also present at the meeting was Department of Health (DOH) assistant secretary Eric Tayag who discussed the digital contact tracing tool the agency is using to stop the spread of Covid-19. He said mobile apps allow users to report health conditions without having to disclose sensitive information that can be shared to the government through Bluetooth or geolocation.

Mahirap gawin kung tayo po ay wala suporta sa technology sapagkat ito pong mga apps na ito ay maari pong makapagbigay sa atin ng magandang impormasyon sa ating kapaligiran,” Tayag said.

Quirino representative Junie E. Cua also asked the committee to seek DICT’s help in examining House Bill 6623 or the New Normal Bill for any policy recommendations. “This is to make sure that faster Internet connectivity is prioritized in the bill,” said Cua.

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