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DICT eyes SUF to fund digital infra program

Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is seeking to use spectrum users fees (SUF) as capital outlay to finance digital infrastructure programs.

SUFs are collected from mobile network operators annually on top of other existing fees imposed by the National Telecommunications Commission.

“We are simply limited by the funding. We have always been given maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) on the use of the SUF. We need to unlock the SUF and also allow it to be used for capital outlay,” DICT Undersecretary Emmanuel Caintic said.

“If we will be allowed to unlock our SUF to both building the digital infrastructure as well as making it a capital outlay, definitely we will be able to create a more sustainable program,” he said.

MOOE refers to an expenditure category for support of the operations of government agencies, while capital outlays are expenditures for the acquisition cost of capital assets, such as equipment and infrastructure.

Caintic said allocations to the DICT’s implementation of the Free Public Internet Access Program from the SUF are currently classified as MOOE.

As such, he said the agency cannot use these collected fees to acquire its own very small aperture terminal (VSAT) technologies, among others.

This is the reason why DICT continues to award contracts to suppliers to provide VSAT technologies in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas instead of purchasing its own VSATs.

Caintic said the agency is confident it can manage the operation of DICT-owned VSATs if it will be given the fund to buy these technologies.

“In the first couple of years, we will outsource some level of help, but in due time – that’s why we need a good program to manage our digital infrastructure – we will be able to manage it in time,” he said.

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