Technology, Media & Telecoms

House approves Bill establishing "On-line Network Policy for the Philippines"

Date: 07 February 2019; Type: Legal News; Source: House of Representatives

The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading with 174 votes, House Bill 3437 which seeks to provide for an on-line network establishment (ONE) policy for the country.

Principally authored by Deputy Speaker Rose Marie "Baby" Arenas, HB 3437 or the “ONE Philippines Act” hopes to minimize the so-called digital divide as well as speed up the setting up of a wireless communications technology in the country.

The bill declares it is the State policy to recognize the vital role of information and communications technology in nation-building and encourage investment in the countryside by providing the infrastructure necessary for the growth of information and communications technology.

Likewise, to promote the adoption of technology from all sources for national benefit, the bill seeks the widest participation of private groups, local government, and community -based organizations in the generation and utilization of available technology.

Towards this end, the State shall provide for a comprehensive policy for the creation and establishment of Information and Communications Technology Center (ICTC), or an Information Communications Technology Hub (ICT Hub), whichever is applicable, in every legislative district in the country with the endview of enhancing the access of every Filipino to information.

With an ICT Hub, Arenas said a province will be able to harness its potential to make it investor-friendly and accessible. It can also electronically promote the province’s nerve center to connect to the various agencies of the national government thereby pushing the growth of e-government locally and nationally.

“The Philippines has 81 provinces, and once this bill becomes a law, at least 81 nodes can be established to pump prime economic activities and promote development in every province,” said Arenas.

Arenas stressed that the ICT Hub can also link a province to the national government during times of national calamities and disasters. More particularly, with the ICT Hub, the archipelagic feature of the country can be bridges, thereby creating One Philippines, she said.

The bill mandates the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), consistent with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) and in coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), to formulate and approve a national ICT Plan for the development of an information superhighway that will accelerate the establishment of ICTC or ICT Hub in every legislative district and barangay.

The ICTC shall likewise be the lead agency to oversee the implementation of the National ICT plan that shall be submitted annually to the Office of the President.

A joint congressional oversight committee shall be created composed of the Chairpersons of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology and Senate Committee on Science and Technology, with two members from each of the Senate and the House who shall be designated by the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively.

An Advisory Committee, to be convened by the DICT, shall solicit inputs for the policy, direction, coordination and supervision of ICT Hubs or ICTCs in the country.

The composition of the Advisory committee shall be determined by DICT which shall include equal representation from the government, service providers and end-users.

The DICT shall identify the area where ICT Hubs or ICTCs shall be established. The private sector shall be encouraged to establish the ICT Hub or ICTCs in accordance with the standards set by the DICT. Likewise, the DICT shall come up with a scheme to address the non-viable areas using the latest and emerging technologies available.

Any locator enterprise or Public Telecommunications Entity (PTE) in the ICT Hub or ICTC may be granted incentives provided under Executive Order No. 226, otherwise known as the Omnibus Investment code of 1987 or Republic Act No. 7916, otherwise known as "The Special Economic Zone Authority Act of 1995, as amended by Republic Act no. 8784, or An Act Amending RA 7916, otherwise known as the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995" and other relevant laws.

All ICT Hubs or ICTCs established under this Act shall be declared free zones within which any public telecommunications entity may operate. Any agreement or arrangement designating a public telecommunications entity, or any of its subsidiaries, affiliates or dummy entities, as exclusive public telecommunications entity within an ICT Hub of ICTCs shall be void and unenforceable.

The NTC, in the exercise of its quasi-judicial authority, shall impose a fine of P300,000 for any of the following acts: non-disclosure, non-interconnection or non-compliance with the committed information rate and quality of service.

The DICT, in coordination with the NTC, National Economic, Development Authority (NEDA), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Board of Investments (BOI). The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Advisory Committee shall issue the necessary rules and regulations of the Act.

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