Faster internet up to telcos, Palace says despite call for gov't investment

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 10 2020 03:49 PM

Faster internet up to telcos, Palace says despite call for gov't investment 1
A cellular site tower in Caloocan City on Aug. 06, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Boosting the country's internet speed is up to telecommunication providers, Malacacañang said Thursday, after a firm and a regulator said this required government investment. 

"Meron po tayong polisiya na ipinasa ng Kongreso na nagsasabi na talagang ang pag-unlad ng telecomms industry ay inilalagay natin sa kamay ng mga pribadong kumpanya," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

(We have a policy that Congress passed which says that we are placing the improvement of the telecomms industry in the hands of private companies.)

"Tayo nga po'y nag-liberalize hindi lang po sa kuryente kundi na rin sa telecomms," he told reporters.

(We liberalized not just the power sector, but telcomms, too.)

Roque said he had "serious questions" on whether or not it would be better for government to take the lead in telco improvement. 

"Dahil nga po sa bilis ng pagbago ng teknolohiya, mas mabuting nasa kamay ng mga pribadong sektor itong broadband network dahil sila'y makaka-adjust, samantalang 'pag gobyerno ang naglagay n'yan, static," he said. 

(Due to the speed of technological development, it's better if the broadband network is in the hands of the private sector because they can adjust, whereas if the government puts that up, it will be static.)

Video courtesy of PTV

National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said Tuesday that in countries with faster internet, their governments invested on infrastructure.
 
For instance, Japan spends around $162 billion, and South Korea allocates about $24 billion. The Philippines will spend P6 billion next year, Cordoba said.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has around 80,000 communication towers, almost quadruple the Philippines' 23,000 towers, he added. 
 
The Philippines has "a very challenging" topography, which requires "a hybrid of government and private sector investment to be able to really bring about fiber [internet connection]," said Globe president and CEO Ernest Cu.

"It cannot take a private initiative lang--kaming 2 lang ni PLDT magtatayo n'yan. Kahit magsama ho kami, talagang mahihirapan. But you know, the effort is continuing," he said. 

(It cannot take a private initiative only, with only the 2 of us with PLDT building that. Even if we join forces, it will be really difficult.)
 
The Philippines' average fixed broadband speed ranks 32nd in Asia, while its mobile internet speed is 34th as of October, Cordoba said. 

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Asked what ranking is acceptable for the government, Roque said, "Tinitingnan ko ang mga bansa na kapareho natin ng ekonomiya, kapareho natin ng pag-unlad ng ating ekonomiya, at iyan po ay Vietnam at saka ang Thailand." 

(I am looking at the countries with the same economy, economic development as ours, and those are Vietnam and Thailand.)

Vietnam ranks 18th, while Thailand is at 16th spot in terms of internet speed, he said.

"Pero parang mahirap pong tanggapin na nauna pa sa atin ang Laos, nauna pa sa atin Myanmar... Nauna lang tayo sa Indonesia at saka sa Timor-Leste, and that's not something that we should be proud of," he said. 

(But it seems difficult to accept that Laos and Myanmar are ahead of us. We were just ahead of Indonesia and Timor-Leste.)