August 6, 2020

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House unanimously approves ONE Philippines Act on final reading

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

According to a recent press release, HB 3437 or the “ONE Philippines Act” hopes to minimise 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 recognise the vital role of information and communications technology in nation-building.

The State should also encourage investment in the countryside by providing the infrastructure necessary for the growth of information and communications technology.

The bill seeks the widest participation of private groups, local government, and community-based organisations in the generation and utilisation of available technology.

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

A province will be able to harness its potential to make it investor-friendly and accessible with the presence of an ICT Hub.

Moreover, it can electronically promote the province’s nerve centre 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.

The ICT Hub can also link a province to the national government during times of national calamities and disasters.

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.

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 Department.

In addition, the DICT shall come up with a scheme to address the non-viable areas using the latest and emerging technologies available.

All ICT Hubs or ICTCs established under this Act shall be declared free zones within which any public telecommunications entity may operate.

The NTC, in the exercise of its quasi-judicial authority, shall impose a fine of US$ 5,770.34 (PHP 300,000) for any of the following acts: non-disclosure, non-interconnection or non-compliance with the committed information rate and quality of service.

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