National Broadband Program gets P902 million budget for 2021
Acting DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado said government agencies should spend their remaining budgets first, before asking for bigger allocations. “So all that we’re saying is, please spend your money first.
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National Broadband Program gets P902 million budget for 2021
(The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has allocated P902 million for the National Broadband Program of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for next year, way below the P18.8 billion the DICT seeks to improve connectivity in the country.

Acting DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado said government agencies should spend their remaining budgets first, before asking for bigger allocations. “So all that we’re saying is, please spend your money first. And then when you’re short, let us know. And then we will add up to your requirements,” he said during the virtual 2020 Open Budget Survey last Friday.

Avisado said the DBM is monitoring the capability and absorptive capacity of implementing agencies. “(This is) short of saying that if you still have funds, (the agency) can use it first. Whatever will be the shortfall, let us know,” he said.

“Then we will add up to the requirements. Because we are under cash budgeting regime, meaning that as we release to you the funds at the onset, you have to spend all of these at the end of the year. Otherwise, they will automatically revert to the national treasury,” he said.

The DICT is asking the Senate for an increase in its 2021 budget and is requesting for an additional budget of around P18 billion for the completion of the government’s own broadband network.

Data showed that while the rollout of the Free-WiFi program requires P6.35 billion, its budget was cut to only P2.72 billion. The NBP project aims to drastically reduce the cost of internet access from the current P350 per Mbps (megabits per second) to only P50 per Mbps.

Avisado said while the 2021 budget for the NBP was only P902 million, it represented a substantial increase from P300 million in 2020.

“This is three times bigger or 300 percent more than the 2020 budget. The program aims to address problems in internet speed and affordability,” he said.

Avisado said the 2021 budget for the WiFi program was also increased by 91 percent to P2.1 billion from P1.1 billion this year. The program aims to provide the public access to the internet.

“We also have other programs that leverage on ICT to have some database in responding to the COVID-19. And some P21.4 billion will likewise be allocated for the Medium-Term Information and Communications and Technology Harmonization Initiative expenditures,” Avisado said.

He said the P21.4-billion budget is broken down as follows: P9.4 billion for ICT sustainability expense; P1.9 billion for ICT support for financial inclusion; and P2.5 billion for other ICT expenses under governance.

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