Marcos approves $288M digital infrastructure project

MANILA. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
MANILA. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.PCO photo

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved the proposed Philippine Digital Infrastructure Project (PDIP) worth $288 million.

In a press conference on Wednesday, June 26, 2024, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Jeffrey Ian Dy said Marcos approved the PDIP on Tuesday, June 25, during the 18th board meeting of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

The PDIP is a flagship project of the administration that aims to boost broadband connectivity nationwide, particularly in remote areas and strengthen cybersecurity in the country.

It will be funded by a World Bank loan, which based on a conservative estimate, can be paid by the government and get the local economic growth of around P4.7 billion on top of the requirements to repay the borrowing.

In April, Marcos launched the first phase of the project, which goes from Baler to Laoag to Metro Manila.

Dy said they are expecting the launch of the second and third phase of the national fiber backbone, which connects Metro Manila to Southern Luzon before the year ends.

He said the funds are also expected to get domestic submarine cables across Visayas and then connect it to Mindanao.

Dy said 772 free Wi-Fi sites will also be established in schools and rural health centers in Mindanao particularly in Davao and Caraga.

“This is because even though the entire country has an internet penetration rate of 73.6 percent, approximately 86 million Filipinos have access to internet -- this disparity is larger in Mindanao where in some regions especially Region XIII, the Internet penetration rate is lower than 17 percent,” he said.

“So, that’s really the target of this development fund. It’s a development program,” he added.

Dy cited a data from the International Telecommunications Union, which recorded 86.5 million Filipinos have access to the internet in 2023.

Dy said Globe, PLDT and Smart are expected not to bring their services to remote areas because the population will not be able to support payment for commercial internet.

“Hopefully, when we are there and once we get the cable networks ready, then we can tie up with the local government units and make this available also for fiber to home along with the local providers. And this will increase internet penetration at home. Hindi lang doon sa free Wi-Fi sites. Halimbawa public schools -- this can also help in making sure that this particular facility is available even at homes,” he said.

Dy said under the PDIP, the country is expected to increase its gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.38 percent due to the expected enhanced e-commerce activity, which is seen to primarily benefit local players like drivers, farmers, and local sari-sari store owners.

“For example, here in Metro Manila, we are all enjoying Grab, we’re all enjoying Lazada, but in so many areas in the country, they don’t even have access to e-commerce,” he said.

“So, in terms of consumer growth or the growth of consumption which is part of our GDP being measured -- kapag mayroong internet, siyempre tataas din iyong consumption kasi magkakaroon ng e-commerce,” he added.

Dy reassured that measures are in place to ensure that the free wi-fi program will not be used for illegal activities.

He said there are sensors that can scan the dark web, as surface web, to know in advance if some data were hacked and being sold in the public or if there is child pornography emanating from the country, which will be then be reported to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

“For example, if you use our free Wi-Fi sites, I’m telling you right now you can’t use it for child pornography et cetera. In fact, we’re going to the extra mile in order to make sure that you’re not misusing it,” said Dy. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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