DIGITAL CONNECTIVITY. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday (Aug. 1, 2023) meets with officials of Kacific Broadband Satellites at the State Dining Room in Malacañan Palace in Manila. During the meeting, Marcos discussed the need to pursue closer cooperation with Kacific to improve the Philippines’ digital connectivity. (Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has directed the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to work with satellite operator Kacific Broadband Satellites to improve digital connectivity in the Philippines.

Marcos issued the directive to Secretaries Ivan John Uy (DICT) and Renato Solidum (DOST) during a meeting with Kacific executives at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Tuesday.

In a statement on Wednesday, Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil said Uy and Solidum have been instructed to continue the negotiations with Kacific to determine the specific terms to beef up the country’s digital capability.

Marcos, during the meeting, was briefed by Kacific officials led by founder and chief executive officer Christian Patouraux about the Singapore-based company’s plan to launch its second satellite project.

While he recognized Kacific’s contributions to the Philippines, Marcos stressed the importance of expanding the satellite services to enable the country to catch up with its Asian neighbors in terms of connectivity in the long run.

“It’s just an improvement on what we have now. Make it more permanent. But this is not, this is on [the] long term. We have to keep up. We are always looking for additional capability when it comes to all this communications especially with the problems of cyber security,” Marcos said.

“It’s really the capability that the Philippines really need... So yes, let’s set it up and let’s see what’s the specifics… so that we can see how this can fit us, this new system,” he added.

Also present during the meeting at Malacañan were Broadband Satellites Business Development Officer Brandon Seir and Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual.

Kacific targets to launch the Kacific2 to add capacity to its existing satellite, the Kacific1. The project aims to provide affordable and reliable internet service to the public.

According to the National Development Co. (NDC), it is studying to invest in the project through the acquisition of frequency block, including the naming rights of the broadband satellite; partnership with a local company on the rollout of the broadband satellite from the Kacific2 to rural areas; and purchase of Kacific Broadband Satellites equity.

Founded in 2013, Kacific is a next-generation broadband satellite operator currently involved in telecommunications-related services. It is operating in 25 countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asian region, including the Philippines.

Kacific provides reliable, fast and low-cost satellite internet in Asia Pacific and gives the government an opportunity to own its satellite.

In December 2019, Kacific launched Kacific1, a next-generation geostationary satellite which provide low-cost, high-speed and reliable broadband to rural and suburban areas in over 25 countries in Asia Pacific.

Uy said the Kacific’s satellite project could benefit the Philippines with additional bandwidth provided by the Kacific2 satellite to help the economy through the propagation of the digital economy.

The share of the value added of the digital economy to the gross domestic product (GDP), in constant prices, grew from 7 percent in 2012 to over 10 percent in 2018, according to the 2020 report by the World Bank.

Garafil said the increase in internet coverage entails significant opportunities for remote areas for online classes and work-from-home individuals.

She added that it could also provide better access to digital services such as e-health initiatives and disaster management and control.

“At the same time, the broadband services offered by Kacific2 could enable government-to-government communications from specific central offices to remote constituents and also support the existing government initiatives that promote better Internet connectivity such as Free WiFi For all Program, the National Broadband Program, and the eGOV PH super app,” Garafil said.

Based on a report released by Speedtest Global Index in June 2023, the Philippines’ internet speech has a median download speed of 92.84 Megabits per second (Mbps) for fixed broadband and 26.98 Mbps for mobile broadband.

The Philippines also ranks 47th out of 180 countries for fixed broadband, and 83rd among 140 countries for mobile broadband.

Compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, the Philippines ranks 5th in fixed broadband and 7th in mobile broadband. (PNA)