Sponsorship Speech: An Act Establishing Free Internet Access in Public Places Act

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” A. Aquino IV
17th Congress, Senate of the Philippines

Sponsorship Speech, December 14, 2016

Good afternoon, Mr. President and esteemed colleagues! Mga kaibigan at mga kababayan, magandang hapon sa ating lahat.

 Today, it is an honor to address you, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, to sponsor an audacious policy that will enable us to leapfrog Internet access in the Philippines.

 I stand before you to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1277 in substitution of S.B. Nos. 58, 190, 816, and 1050, entitled “An Act Establishing The Free Internet Access Program In Public Spaces In The Country And Appropriating Funds Thereof, otherwise known as “Free Internet Access in Public Places Act” which seeks to install free internet access points in public places all throughout the country.

 Friends, meet Jose.

Jose wishes to escape the city and travel the entire Philippines to discover with his own eyes the wonders of our country.

Jose will not let work stop him. He can work remotely and send his reports via email.

Jose won’t even let his girlfriend stop him. They can always message one another and even go on video-call dates while he is away.

 All Jose is waiting for is for, Mr. President, is for Internet in the Philippines to be available in every island, mountain, and valley.

Mr. President, napaka importante ng internet sa buhay natin.

Para kay Jose, ito’y importante para makapaglibot sa Pilipinas, mag-post ng mga selfie sa Mayon, magtrabaho mula sa kubo, at makipag-online date sa gitna ng mangrove sa Palawan.

 Para sa iba nating kababayan, ito’y mahalaga para makausap at humingi ng payo mula sa amang nagtatrabaho sa Saudi.

Para sa mga call center agent, ang internet ang nag-uugnay sa kanila at kanilang mga kausap abroad.

Para sa mga freelancers, ito’y kailangan para makausap ng maayos ang kliente at mapadala ang hinihinging trabaho.

 Para sa mga negosyanteng Pinoy, ito’y nagagamit sa pagbebenta ng gamit o paghahanap ng mga bagong supply.

Para sa maraming unemployed, ito’y importante para makapag-apply sa mas maraming trabaho online.

Para sa mga guro at mag-aaral, ang internet ang pinanggagalingan ng research, ng learning materials, at modules.

And yet, Mr. President, only about 52.6% of Filipinos have access to Internet services (ITU).

Compared to our neighbors, we are clearly lagging behind in Internet access. The same study shows that 81.3% of Singaporeans, 68% of Malaysians and 60.1% of Thais can access the Internet.

For this reason, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, it is imperative that we institutionalize this very important platform – to improve access to quality Internet in the Philippines and provide free internet connectivity in public spaces.

The Free Internet Access in Public Places Act mandates the establishment of the necessary infrastructure, equipment, and end-user platform needed to give all Filipinos free internet access in public spaces. 

Under this act, all national and local government offices, public schools – from elementary to tertiary – public transport terminals, public hospitals, and public libraries will have free internet access. 

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) shall be charged with developing a plan and a timeline for the rollout of this program. They shall also take the lead in coordinating with local government units to ensure the on-ground implementation of the program. 

Most importantly, the DICT shall be authorized to streamline the process for the application of permits and certificates for the construction of infrastructure and installation of equipment necessary – a major hurdle faced by companies seeking to build internet infrastructure. 

To address this, national government agencies and local government units will also have the responsibility of coordinating with the DICT and DILG to fast-track these permits and certificates necessary for the program’s roll-out. 

They shall also be in charge of maintaining and safeguarding the program and its equipment with a designated on-site coordinator. 

 Offering Filipinos free high-quality internet access in public places is going to revolutionize the way that we go about our day and open our minds to boundless possibilities for how we can make our lives, our families, and our communities better.

 Mr. President, noong ako’y napuntang Bacolod, bumisita po ako sa Alegria Elementary School kung saan nakilala ko si Baryeth. Siya’y Grade 6 student na miyembro rin ng student council.

 Ang request po niya sakin: sana mayroon na silang internet connection sa paaralan para magawa nila ng mabilis at maayos ang kanilang mga school project.

Mr. President, 26% lang ng ating mga public schools ang may access sa internet at karamihan pa sa mga paaralang mayroong internet ay nagtiyatiyaga sa mga USB dongle.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, now is the time to invest completely in developing internet quality and bringing this powerful tool to every port, every station, every park, every museum, and every classroom in the Philippines.

 Imagine tourist sites with free Internet access, where travelers from here and abroad can read up on historical sites and post beautiful photos of our country on social media.

Imagine museums with free WIFI and downloadable applications so visitors can learn more about our arts and culture.

Imagine strolling through a public park and connecting to free Internet so you don’t have to worry about whether you’re missing out on important emails.

 Imagine getting last-minute work done at an airport or seaport while waiting to go on your next adventure.

 And imagine hundreds of state universities and thousands of public schools with access to world-class learning materials and educational videos, making the most out of the World Wide Web to enhance learning.

Kung hindi po ngayon, kailan pa? Ang internet ay maaaring maging susi sa pag-unlad ng bawat Pilipino – at susi sa pagtupad ng Philippine travel dreams ni Jose.

 Let’s pass the Free Internet in Public Places Act and arm Filipinos with the power of connectivity, the power of information, and the power of education!

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