THE SATELLITE company hired to implement the P1.3-billion free WiFi project is expected to respond to a letter from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) seeking the return of the leftover funds allocated for the initiative, a Palace official said.

Hong Kong-based SpeedCast International Ltd. has until Friday to reply to a demand to return the unused funds, the President’s spokesman, Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said at a televised news briefing Thursday.

“Well nakipag-ugnayan po tayo kay Usec. (Emmanuel Rey R.) Caintic ng DICT at ang nalaman po natin unang-una, iyong contractor po has until tomorrow to respond to their demand letter (What we learned from Undersecretary Caintic is that the contractor has until tomorrow, Friday, to respond),” he said.

Ang demand po nila ay itigil na ang proyekto dahil DICT na po ang gagawa ng proyekto at iyong mga pera na naibayad na sa kanya na hindi naman niya naikabit by way of WiFi spots ay dapat ibalik (The contractor has also been told to suspend work on the project because the DICT can take it on, and it needs to return the funds meant for the WiFi spots that have not been installed).”

Mr. Roque said government accountants involved in the project have yet to determine the amount of money that the contractor needs to return to the government.

The Palace has asked the DICT to terminate its contract with SpeedCast due to the slow rollout, and after reports that the company had undervalued six shipments in its Customs declarations.

The DICT on Tuesday said it has created a task force to investigate the allegations against the company.

Mr.  Roque has said it was unacceptable that only 10,000 of the 120,000 target sites have been provided free wireless internet access, nearly four years after President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Republic Act No. 10929, which authorized the government to offer the public free internet access.

In 2018, the United Nations Development Programme tapped SpeedCast for the project after the President signed RA 10929. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza