THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it needs to invest about P50 billion over the next three years to develop digital infrastructure.

“Our estimate is about P50 billion over three years. Most of the budget will go to the National Fiber Backbone (program) and the Accelerated Fiber Build through the regional and provincial rings,” Acting Secretary Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic said. 

“We are very optimistic that they will give us that budget. We have been advocating, evangelizing, and promoting this digital infrastructure for the past two to three years. I believe they have come to realize, especially with the pandemic, that all the more this digital infrastructure is the way to go and it is the right investment to be done by the government,” he added.

He said new entrants in the telecommunications industry are also needed to raise the quality of services, particularly with the amendment of the Public Service Act (PSA) to allow 100% foreign ownership in telecommunications companies.

“We need new players, foreign direct investment (FDI) in the telecommunications and internet markets so that they will become competitive. Investment is needed (to improve services). New players will help create the competition needed to deliver better services,” Mr. Caintic said.

Mr. Caintic said the department is facing challenges in setting up common cell towers to improve internet coverage.

“Right now, after two years, only 2,000 have been built and we still have a long way to go. We need about 50,000 towers,” Mr. Caintic said.

On March 21, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11659, which amended the 85-year-old PSA. The amended law now allows sectors such as telecommunications, domestic shipping, railways and subways, airlines, expressways and tollways, and airports to be fully owned by foreigners.  

These sectors were previously covered by the 40% foreign ownership cap for public utilities as set by the 1987 Constitution. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave