Broadband for Barangays or Better Education and Health?

The contract signed by the Philippine government and ZTE Corporation to supply and construct a national broadband network appears highly questionable.
A central government that is electronically linked to local government by broadband is a good idea. However, spending on an expensive broadband technology, instead of maximizing and expanding existing networks, is not the best option. There already exist national broadband networks that our telecommunications companies operate.   Our national government agencies can lease bandwidth from them at market rates.

Republic Act 7925 clearly states that “a fundamental objective of government is to develop and maintain a viable, efficient, reliable and universal telecommunication infrastructure using the best available and affordable technologies.” In doing so, the law emphasized that public telecommunications services shall be provided by private enterprises.

The country still lacks 41,000 classrooms, even as our Constitution mandates that education should be the top priority in the national budget.  Ask any poor family what their greatest fear is and the answer would most likely be health-related.  In remote barangays and in quite a few municipios, access to water is still a basic need.  The ZTE contract value of US$330 million (P15 billion) could be spent in building 36,000 classrooms, or 6,000 rural health centers or 120,000 artesian wells.

Building a national broadband network puts government in the business of business, and in one that it regulates.  This sends wrong signals to those who have already invested in the telecommunications industry and to potential investors in this country.

The government should have learned from its failed “Telepono sa Barangay” program.  The dwindling number and deteriorating condition of public calling stations are also proof of the government’s lack of capacity to operate and maintain its own network. As a result, the infrastructure has deteriorated and the investment was unsuccessful.

We strongly oppose the contract with ZTE Corporation.  We respectfully call on the President to diplomatically abrogate the contract and to commit the funds to education instead, where the nation can benefit the most.

MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES
MAKATI BUSINESS CLUB
FINANCIAL EXECUTIVES INSTITUTE OF THE PHILIPPINES
Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference FOR HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
Foundation for Economic Freedom
Action for Economic Reforms

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