MANILA, Philippines -- The legislative measure transforming the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) into a full-fledged department is expected to be passed within the year, one of its sponsors in the Senate, Senator Loren Legarda, said Tuesday.
During the hearing on Senate Bills 920 (sponsored by Legarda) and 320 (sponsored by Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada), various sectors voiced support for the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology to bring government focus and priority to the ICT.
Among the measure?s backers are the Department of Transportation and Communications, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), the Civil Service Commission, telecommunications giants Smart and Globe, software and business processing industry representatives, the academe, and the regulatory body National Telecommunications Commission.
"I first filed the bill in 1998 and it will only become a law this year, 10 years after. Imagine if we had passed the bill then, we would be on the top of the ICT heap," Legarda said.
CICT chairman Ray Anthony Roxas Chua III, said the creation of the DICT would bring better access to information, government service, foreign markets, and available jobs; make remittances and communications inexpensive; and bring global recognition.
DoST Undersecretary Fortunato Dela Pena, citing a recent United Nations science and technology summit, suggested that the proposed law also include among its objectives the alleviation of poverty and the enhancement of the country's competitiveness.
Senator Edgardo Angara, who as chairman of the Senate committee on science and technology chaired the hearing, said he wants to ensure that DICT would not suffer the same fate as the Department of Agrarian Reform. He said at least three thinktanks have concluded that agrarian reform only increased poverty incidence in the country.
"All this is good, but I hope the DICT will actually reduce poverty," he said.
Chua said other countries which have an advanced ICT sector all have a department focused on ICT issues. He said these countries include Philippine competitors in the ICT like China, Australia, and Singapore.
"Those who are falling behind with competitors in the digital-enabled services like Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar do not have a department on ICT. We don't want to be included in that group," the CICT chief said.
Presently, the CICT is under the Office of the President with no specific budget allocation.
Asked by Angara about how he plans to lead DICT, Chua said the key is in public-private partnerships similar to the tack taken by Singapore and Australia.
Chua also noted that the CICT was only meant as a transitory body that would eventually become a department.
Angara already created the technical working group that will finalize the committee report and craft the final draft of the measure for sponsorship in the Senate plenary.
Legarda said the sponsorship of the measure will be sometime after the Congress sine die late July.
Congress will go on recess for about one and a half months starting June 14 before returning for its second regular session on July 28.