THE Senate Finance Committee approved Thursday the P32.63-billion 2020 budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), a marked increase from the department’s 2019 funding of P4.3 billion.
The bulk of the 2020 budget will fund the agency’s three-year national broadband plan, which requires P23 billion in investment.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, who chairs the finance committee, asked DICT to identify the initial funds for implementation of the national broadband plan in 2020.
DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II asked the chairman for time prior to the submission of the sub-committee report to submit this financial analysis.
“We will release it as soon as possible. We know that we’re asking for the moon, but we have a catch-up plan. In fact, we project it in three years,” he said in English and Filipino during the hearing.
“Give us this chance to show that we can make it. In short, you give us this we will deliver,” he added.
The nationwide digital infrastructure plan includes the maintenance of international cable landing stations and building domestic counterparts. The department plans to build cooperative towers and use managed satellite services to reach more than 9,000 unserved areas.
“We really have to invest in digital infrastructure. The national broadband program is the key driver for us to bring about all of these services. It aims to improve the internet speed and broadband, accelerate fiber optics and other technologies across the country,” DICT Assistant Secretary Felino O. Castro V said.
DICT also plans to connect all provinces and government networks using fiber optic communications and expand free wifi for state colleges and universities and public spaces by up to 100,000 sites in the next three years.
The overall budget also includes spending items like the DICT’s digital literacy program, cybersecurity, internal institutional reforms, and the improvement of national government portals to reduce red tape.
Mr. Lacson in the meantime expects the additional financial reports on the national broadband plan in the next few weeks.
“Between now and the submission of the sub-committee report, provide it to us because we will incorporate all of this in our committee report and hopefully the main committee under Senator Angara will be receptive,” Mr. Lacson said. — Jenina P. Ibañez