DICT measure passes third and final reading
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has passed a measure to create a separate department to handle the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) policies and regulations.
Voting 12-0 on Tuesday, lawmakers approved on the third and final reading Senate Bill No. 50, which calls for the reorganization of communications-related agencies into a separate entity known as the Department of ICT or DICT.
“We thank our lawmakers for this historical step,” the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines said, reacting to the news on Tuesday.
The NICP, made up of the country’s top technology firms, said industry stakeholders have been clamoring for the creation of a DICT for over a decade. Last December, the lower house of Congress overwhelmingly passed a similar measure, House Bill 4667.
Both houses of Congress will now have to convene in a bicameral session to come up with a version of a bill for President Aquino to sign into law.
“I can only laud my colleagues for enacting swiftly a measure that many of us have been waiting for a long time,” Sen. Edgardo Angara, chair of the committee on science and technology, said in a statement. Senators Loren Legarda, Vicente Sotto III, Teofisto Guingona III, Lito Lapid and Manuel Villar co-sponsored the bill.
One of the main beneficiaries of the law is the country’s booming business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, which relies heavily on ICT services for operations.
In a position paper submitted to the Senate, the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) underscored that the new department will help ensure the country’s global competitiveness and attractiveness for foreign investments, particularly during the digital age.
Under the bill, agencies such as the ICT Office currently under the Department of Science and Technology the National Computer Center and the Telecommunications Office would be absorbed by the DICT.
The National Telecommunications Commission and the Philippine Postal Corp., meanwhile, will be attached agencies.
The DICT will have control over the “e-government fund,” a special account in the yearly state budget created specifically for cross-agency and “citizen-centric” government technology projects under the e-commerce act.
The DICT’s main function is to enable the government to expand its ability to conduct activities electronically and provide frontline services through innovative uses of the internet or other emerging technologies.
Angara said neighboring countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam already have their own Ministries or Departments of ICT. The Philippines is in league with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, which incidentally are also the region’s economic laggards, in not having a separate agency focused on ICT development.
“Having a DICT in place provides ample opportunity for us to create policies that will transition the country toward a full-fledged technology-driven economy,” he said.