DICT seeks budget hike for 2021

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2020 02:46 PM

MANILA - The Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) is seeking a P46.6 billion budget for 2021— almost 8 times more than its 2020 budget —to fast-track the country's digital transformation in the new normal.

In a Senate hearing Tuesday on his agency's spending proposal for next year, DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan said a chunk of the budget would go to building a government-owned network that would provide more extensive internet connectivity in the country. 

"With the COVID-19 issue, we understand the contracting fiscal space but we would like to appeal for any incremental increase in our budget so that we can pursue our main programs effectively,” he said.

Through the National Broadband Program (NBP), the public will have access to cheaper and more reliable Internet services, he said.

The DICT is requesting an additional P17.276 billion for NBP after the Department of Budget and Management only approved P902 million.

For a project providing free access to WiFi in public places and state universities and colleges, the agency allotted P6.350 billion for the project, but the DBM only approved P2.725 billion.

As of Sept. 9, the DICT had provided free internet connection in 5,046 sites, serving 5 million unique users across 79 provinces. It is hoping to provide free WiFi hotspot connection to 27,000 more sites.

“In broad strokes, we requested for P46 billion. We are earmarked to be given about P4 billion. Last budget, humingi kami ng P36 [billion], binigyan kami ng P6 [billion],” Honasan said.

In closing, he warned of consequences if the government would underfund the agency.

"We are concerned about the ticking clock because before the COVID-19 issue, our timeline for setting this in motion was about 18 months. Pero realistically po, 'pag umabot na tayo by next year, the government will slow down," he said.

"We're worried that [if] this self-inflicted bureaucratic situation is not corrected and institutionalized baka ho mahirapan na tayo including post 2022 scenario."