Senate allots P5.9B budget for DICT’s broadband program in 2021

Robie de Guzman   •   December 8, 2020   •   601

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe has announced that the Senate is moving to increase the government’s first-ever planned spending on telecommunications infrastructure to PHP5.9 billion.

This is to speed up the rollout of services in underprivileged areas now that connectivity has become a basic necessity.

“I am happy to announce that with the help of my fellow senators, we pushed for the increase in the budget allocation for the national broadband because the NEP (National Expenditure Program) only gave about P900 million which is actually quite laughable,” Poe said during Monday’s hearing of the Senate committee on public services that she chairs.

“We increased that to at least PHP5.9 billion for 2021. This is just for the first phase. We have to contend with the DICT’s absorptive capacity which is why we didn’t go all out,” she added.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) admitted that the government has not invested a centavo for the development of internet services in the country and that investments in internet infrastructure have been made by big businesses.

According to NTC data, the Vietnamese government has invested $820 million in internet development. It added that Malaysia also invested $233.6 million, Thailand $343 million, and Singapore$1.7 billion for quality internet infrastructure.

Poe said that the problems stemming from the lack of internet connectivity are felt in education and the toll there is heavy and will be felt for generations to come.

“We need to look at internet connectivity as a basic necessity and government should ensure access to it especially for the underprivileged if only to make education accessible to the poor,” she added.

Defense chief Lorenzana tests positive for COVID-19 anew

Robie de Guzman   •   November 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed on Wednesday that he has again contracted COVID-19.

In a message to reporters, Lorenzana said he was informed of his test result earlier in the day but he has not manifested any symptoms.

He said he is fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

“This morning I got the result of my swab test yesterday afternoon after the Senate hearing. I am asymptomatic,” he said.

“Yes, I am fully vaxxed. I’ll observe myself for several days after that I’ll have another swab,” he added.

The Defense chief first tested positive for COVID-19 in April and recovered.

Lorenzana took a swab test after undergoing screening for COVID-19 on Tuesday when he physically attended a Senate hearing for his department’s budget for 2022.

With this development, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they might suspend the budget deliberations on Thursday to give way for the testing of exposed Senate staff.

Lorenzana had interactions with several senators during the session. Among those who was exposed to him were Senators Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino.

Senators and staff who had contact with Lorenzana have been asked to undergo quarantine and get tested after five days.

DILG, provinces urge Senate to restore NTF-ELCAC’s P28B budget for barangay dev’t program

Robie de Guzman   •   November 16, 2021

 MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the League of Provinces of the Philippines have appealed to the Senate to restore the P28.1 billion Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) proposed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for NPA-cleared barangays in the 2022 budget.

In a statement issued on Monday, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said the program is “a game-changer in our battle to end Communist Terrorism in the country.”

“Unti-unti nang nararamdaman ng mga naninirahan sa mga barangay na sakop ng SBDP ngayong taon ang tunay na kahulugan ng pagbabago at pagkalinga ng gobyerno na hindi nila naramdaman sa nakaraan dahil sa mga Komunistang Terorista,” Año said.

The DILG chief noted that “there is now momentum in the fight against Communist terrorism and slashing the P28.1 Billion will send a wrong signal to the Local Government Units who have been expecting these development projects next year.”

“We must remember that the battle against the CTGs is not just a battle of arms, it’s also a battle for the hearts and minds of our people,” he said.

The League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) echoed Año’s appeal.

During its 8th General Assembly, the LPP said it passed Resolution No. 2021-009 supporting President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-insurgency program and urging the Senate to approve in full the proposed Support to the Barangay Development Program in the 2022 General Appropriations Bill.

“The full and continued implementation of the BDP needs to be pursued in order to bring about and sustain progress and development in these identified conflict-affected barangays that urgently need government support and assistance,” said LPP President and Marinduque Governor Presbiterio Velasco, Jr.

“The proposed projects under the SBDP which were identified by the community residents themselves, represent their collective aspiration towards genuine peace and development,” Año said.

The DILG Secretary stressed that cutting the proposed NTF-ELCAC budget next year will deprive these remote barangays of development and will make them vulnerable once more to the CTGs at a time when we have already gained significant strides in our whole-of-nation approach to defeat communist terrorism.

“Mahigit 50 taon nang naghihirap at napag-iwanan ang ating mga kababayan na nakatira sa mga bulubundukin at malalayong lugar na dati ay pinamumugaran ng mga communist terrorist groups (CTGs),” he said.

“Nakikiusap po tayo sa ating mga Senador na huwag ipagkait ang pagkakataong maramdaman nila ang pagmamalasakit ng gobyerno at malasap ang tunay pagbabago,” he added.

Año said that the P16.44-billion development projects under the SBDP this year are in full swing in the 822 insurgency-cleared barangays with several projects already completed and others in different phases of implementation.

Of the 2,318 SBDP projects funded this year, 19 are already completed, 557 are undergoing implementation, 783 are under procurement, and 959 are under pre-procurement.

Among the completed SBDP projects are livelihood projects in Barangay Mount Diwata, Monkayo, Davao de Oro; lot purchase for housing in Barangays Don Mariano Marcos, Tagbua, and Calapagan, Lupon, Davao Oriental; distribution of seed capital to poor farmers in Barangay Caduha-an, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental; livelihood project in Sangab, Maco, Davao de Oro; installation of 50 units LED solar street lights with solar panel in Barangay Darapuay, Bansalan, Davao del Sur; and purchase of rice harvesters in Carataya, Mahunodhunod, Putian and San Antonio in Cuartero, Capiz.

“Based on the current status of SBDP projects, we are expecting that majority of them will be completed by the first quarter of 2022 with some spill-over projects to be completed by the second quarter,” Año said.

He explained that some of the projects are still under procurement on the LGU level because it takes about 1-2 months for the preparation of pre-procurement documents like Detailed Engineering Design (DED) from the implementing local government units (LGUs), Certificate of Pre-condition (CP) or Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC) from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), and Notice of Authority to Debit Account Issued (NADAI) from the Bureau of Treasury (BTr).

The DILG Chief maintained that completing these documentary requirements were even more challenging with the stringent COVID-19 restrictions as another 4 to 5 months are needed to complete the procurement process in compliance with the Republic Act (RA) 9184.

He added that actual implementation of the SBDP projects on the ground takes about 1 to 4 months to complete depending on the nature of the project with non-infra projects usually completed faster than infra projects like roads and buildings.

DICT in need of 50K volunteer data encoders for 3-day national vaccination days

Maris Federez   •   November 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Monday, November 15, announced that it is in search of, at least, 50,000 volunteer data encoders to be deployed for the coming 3-day national vaccination days slated from November 29 to December 1.

“Sa susunod na mga araw magpopost kami ng sign-up sheet for data encoders para pwede nating italaga sa bawat LGU lalung lalo na sa mahalagang activity ngayong November 29 to December 1, na tinatawag nating 3-day national vaccination days. Doon kailangan po natin ng almost 50,000 data encoders para matulungan ang ating mga LGU, lalung lalo na sa mga lugar na kulang ang kanilang mga marunong mag-encode,” DICT Usec. Manny Caintic said.

This, following the admission of the department that data encoding has become a challenge especially in the local government units (LGUs).

The department said the backlog in data encoding is now at 30% in the LGUs.

“Una sa lahat, mahirap magbakuna at naghahanap tayo ng paraan na magbakuna nang mabilis. Pangalawa, nanghihikayat din tayo sa ating mga tao na tumulong sa inyong mga LGU. Kailangan natin ng data encoders. Mahirap humagilap ng mga data encoder ang mga LGU kasi, una sa lahat, kailangan din natin silang pakainin, at kailangan natin silang bigyan ng incentive,” Caintic said.

“Malaking sanhi po talaga is sa data encoding. Nandoon man sa kanila ang datos, hindi pa nila nailagay sa system para mai-upload. Nasa 30% na naman ulit yung mga backlog sa mga LGU,” he added.

Caintic, on the other hand, lauded other LGUs, specifically the City of Manila and other cities, who have 100% submission rates of encoded data. —/mbmf

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