The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is soliciting the support of lawmakers after its proposed budget for its flagship broadband project was trimmed from P18 billion to P902 million.
Last September 15, top DICT officials presented to members of the House of Representatives (HoR) its proposed budget for 2021 where it also discussed the need to increase funding for the National Broadband Program (NBP). The DICT has proposed an overall budget of around P46.6 billion for 2021.
So far, the agency said it has secured the support of at least seven congressmen who have expressed their desire to have the NBP budget allocation augmented.
Camarines Sur representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., for instance, stressed the importance of the NBP to improve the quality of Internet services in the country.
“So, I was analyzing kung magkano to fund the backbone dun sa presentation — 18 billion ang kailangan. At nakakalungkot, ang napondo lang sa 2021 budget is only 902 million… I will push and I will ask the support of the members of the Congress na kung pwede natin mapondohan either 17 or ‘yung half of the amount para phase one, phase two. Kasi kailangan talaga ‘yan ngayong panahon na ‘to. This is what you call digital infrastructure,” he added.
South Cotabato representative Ferdinand Hernandez and Iloilo City representative Julienne Baronda also voiced the same sentiments. In addition, Hernandez also highlighted the need to restore the funding for the Free Internet Access in Public Places and State Universities and Colleges Program.
Marikina representative Stella Luz Quimbo also expressed her disappointment in the current budget allocated for the NBP, explaining how important Internet connectivity during this new normal.
“Ikinalungkot ko po na ang na-approve na budget for the National Broadband Program ay only 902 million, whereas ang nirequest niyo po ay 18 billion… And nakakalungkot kasi, alam naman po natin na halos lahat po ng bansa sa buong mundo ay ang coping mechanism dito sa pandemya ay gamit po ang Internet,” she said.
“Ang tingin ko kasi kapag nadiskaril ang NBP, ang isang epekto po diyan ay hindi po natin mapapababa ng mabilis ang cost of Internet,” she added.
Likewise, Surigao del Norte representative Francisco Jose Matugas II emphasized the savings that government will incur in Internet subscription expenses by fully implementing the program.
Meanwhile, Laguna representative Dan Fernandez and Bulacan representative Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado underscored the importance of cybersecurity and boosting the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) to suppress and prevent cybercrime in the country.