MANILA – The country’s internet speed will go up a notch higher next year once the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) begins to implement its National Broadband Plan (NBP) that has been allocated PHP1.5 billion under the proposed 2023 national budget.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez on Monday said internet is a critical social service nowadays and “it is deeply entrenched in the way we live.”

He said the allocation for the NBP is part of the PHP77-billion institutional amendments made by the lower chamber to augment the budget for education, health, transportation and other critical social services.

“We use the internet for education, for delivering and availing social services, for our businesses, and for almost every facet of our lives,” Romualdez said in a news release.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said the PHP1.5 billion will go a long way in jumpstarting the NBP program that is envisioned to provide the backbone in providing internet to all government agencies nationwide.

“At alam naman natin na maraming lugar pa rin sa ating bansa ang hindi naaabot ng internet connection, lalo na ‘yung malalayong lugar (And we know that there are many places in the country that could not be reached by internet connection, especially those far flung areas). And we can now use the bandwidth given by Facebook once the DICT conducts the rollout of national broadband infrastructure, which will now be finally funded,” Co said.

He was referring to an earlier agreement forged by DICT, Facebook, and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority in which Facebook agreed to provide the Philippine government with spectrum equivalent to at least 2 million megabits per second (Mbps) once the internet infrastructure has been established.

Social media registration

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchlian said he wants Facebook and other social media accounts to register in the Philippines so that they can be held accountable if they will be used as purveyors of fake news.

“Social media people must be held liable for allowing people to perpetuate [fake news]. Maybe these types of platforms must be mandated to register and be made accountable,” Gatchalian said during the public hearing on Monday of Senate Resolution No. 191 calling for the adaptation of an inter-agency approach in the formulation of policies against the proliferation and spread of false information.

Angela Marie de Gracia-Cruz of the Department of Justice-Office of Cybercrime, told the Senate that Facebook and its parent company Meta have a good relationship with authorities as they are very supportive of the government’s campaign against fake news.

The social media giant deletes accounts deemed bogus, Cruz said.

Committee on Information and Mass Media chair Senator Robin Padilla reminded the public that the freedom of the press and freedom of speech are not absolute, especially if national interest is at stake.

Senator Raffy Tulfo, on the other hand, said extortionists pretending to be journalists should be prosecuted, as he supported the National Press Club’s move not to accredit vloggers or broadcast block timers at this time, as they have no accountability yet. (With reports from Zaldy De Layola, Leonel Abasola/PNA)