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The Philippines Expands Free Internet Service to More Remote Islands

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. pledged that his administration would do everything possible to ensure free internet access in all remote areas. The government will implement the “BroadBand ng Masa Programme” (BBMP) in all remote islands, particularly those without mobile cellular services.

According to a statement from Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS), President Marcos Jr. conveyed his commitment during his surprise appearance at the “Online Kamustahan” organised by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

President Marcos Jr. led the BBMP’s virtual rollout, providing free internet to students and teachers from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs) across the country. He also spoke with students and teachers who participated in the online event, including those from the remote Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

“Those from remote areas need this [free internet services], especially the children, for their education. So it’s comforting to know that advanced technology is available to us. According to the OPS, it is critical now so that we can feel connectivity throughout the Philippines,” President Marcos Jr. said.

An additional 628 operational free WiFi sites were established as part of the programme, bringing the total number of such WiFi locations throughout the Philippines to 4,757. The government’s free internet services are available to at least 2.1 million unique users, equivalent to about 100,000 families. Digital technologies will improve interconnectivity and government services during online gatherings.

DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy was confident that the programme would aid in the establishment of a “direct connection” between GIDAs and the government. One of the government’s accomplishments in improving connectivity is the implementation of the Free WiFi for All Programme. He promised to increase efforts to bring internet access to more remote areas.

DIST installed free WiFi in Basilan last September in the cities of Lamitan and Isabela. Meanwhile, in October, the DICT provided free WiFi access to remote islands in Mindanao’s southernmost region. The free internet programme was designed for Sacol, Pangapuyan, and Tictabon Island.

The remote islands lack access to mobile cellular services and experience power outages in the evenings. In such situations, people must travel by boat to attend classes or connect with relatives outside their region. The project includes the installation of solar and gas-powered generators in areas with limited or no access to power. He shared that approximately 30% of the Filipino population lacks internet access, with the DICT aiming to connect more geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs) through the BBMP.

Following a request from Majority Leader Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Mannix Dalipe, the BBMP equipment was installed with the assistance of locals and DICT engineers. The effort is to fulfil President Marcos’ promise to reach the most remote parts of the country and begin the project at the most remote one.

However, due to the DICT’s limited budget, 100%t connectivity throughout the country may not yet be possible, with the BBMP currently being rolled out in GIDAS with large populations that do not have access to the internet. Once Starlink begins its nationwide rollout, installing free WiFi hubs will be easier and faster. Rather than constructing a building or a Base Transmission Station (BTS) tower, satellites are considered a more straightforward solution to provide internet access.

President Marcos Jr. has encouraged businesses to digitise processes as well as other critical areas such as education, skill training and research and development. The President also highlighted the government’s efforts to improve business ease, public-private partnerships and bureaucratic efficiency through the development and digitalisation of information technology.

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