By Azer Parrocha

PH CONNECTIVITY. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. delivers a speech at the 2022 Telco Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Tuesday (Dec. 6, 2022). Marcos said his administration is determined to make the country’s internet connectivity at par with its neighbors in Southeast Asia, citing the need for Filipinos to be able to quickly communicate with others across the country and the globe. (Screengrab from RTVM)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said his administration is determined to make the country’s internet connectivity at par with its neighbors in Southeast Asia, citing the need for Filipinos to be able to quickly communicate with others across the country and globe.

Marcos said efforts have been made to boost internet connectivity but said these were not enough.

Citing government data, he said the Philippine connectivity rate is “still pretty low” with only about 70 percent of Filipinos are active broadband subscribers against the 88 percent average in Southeast Asia.

“We are still below 70 percent and that’s not good enough, especially for an archipelagic country such as ours where connectivity is exceedingly important because we have many isolated communities who need some form of contact, some form of communication with the rest of the country, with the rest of the world,” Marcos said in a speech during the 2022 Telco Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

“That is why that is a priority and that is why as I said at the very start, it is impossible to overstate the importance of connectivity, of the telcos, of all of our new technologies over the internet whether it be by fiber optic cable, whether it be Starlink, whether it be from a satellite. Whatever the system is appropriate, we need to explore it and we need to apply it,” he added, referring to a wholly-owned subsidiary of Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX).

He said the Philippines must strive to “do so much better” to be able to compete with its neighbors in Southeast Asia.

“We will have to cooperate with our neighbors in the region, and to do that, we must be at the very least at the same level of digitalization as they are. Right now, we are not quite there but let us work hard at it,” he added.

Marcos said his administration aims to build a “truly digital Philippines” by doubling its efforts to reach the most remote parts of the country by providing access to mobile cellular services and Wi-Fi.

“In fact, we have been firm in intensively rolling out key programs such as the BroadBand ng Masa Program, the Free Wi-Fi for All Program, the Zamboanga-Basilan Wireless Broadband Network, [and] the establishment of the National Government Data Center,” he said.

He said his administration is also streamlining the efforts of government in processing and issuance of permits and licenses to accelerate the development of telecommunication and internet infrastructure in the country.

In July, Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc. announced it will launch its Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite internet services in the Philippines by December.

However, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said Starlink’s launch in the country will be moved to the middle of 2023.

Public-private partnerships

Marcos likewise encouraged relevant government agencies and private sector partners to work together to ensure that these efforts to improve internet connectivity in the country will be strengthened and translated into a more efficient delivery of government services.

“As daily consumers of information and technology, we must learn to capitalize on this sector in order to be more productive in ways we can only imagine,” he added.

He said if the government were to do business with the “highly-digitalized” private sector, it must also achieve the same level of digitalization.

“With your support, your cooperation, your active participation in these endeavors, I am confident that we can build a digital backbone that is not only strong, efficient, robust, but it also exhibits the hallmarks of accessibility, reliability, and inclusiveness,” he said.

With the theme, “One Data. Open Innovation. One Nation”, the Telco Summit 2022 gathers around 200 participants to establish a communication, a learning mechanism and a platform to push for initiatives that will strengthen and improve the telecommunication industry in the Philippines.

The Telco Summit 2022 is spearheaded by the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) and the DICT. (PNA)