New laws: Extended validity of licenses and passports; free internet in public places

New laws: Extended validity of licenses and passports; free internet in public places

 President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday signed into law a bill extending the validity of driver's licenses. File photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday signed into law three measures extending the validity of passports and drivers’ licenses and providing free internet access in public places.

Duterte signed Republic Act 10930, "an act rationalizing and strengthening the policy regarding driver's license by extending the validity period of drivers' licenses and penalizing acts in violation of its issuance and application amending for those purpose section 23 of Republic Act No. 4136," into law.

RA 10930 extends the validity of drivers’ license from three to five years reckoned from the birthdate of the licensee. Those who will renew licenses will be entitled to 10 years’ validity subject to the restrictions imposed by the Land Transportation Office.

The new law however, does not apply to student drivers.

"Except for student permits, all drivers' licenses shall be valid five years reckoned from the birthdate of the licensee, unless sooner revoked or suspended,” RA 10930 said.

The law also establishes stricter rules for the issuance of drivers' licenses.

“The LTO shall promulgate prerequisite guidelines before the grant of drivers' licenses to ensure that these are issued only to deserving applicants with sufficient driving skills and knowledge on road safety and proper road courtesy,” it stated.

Aside from the required skills and knowledge, applicants will undergo theoretical and practical examinations to measure their competence.

Under RA 10930, officers who issues drivers' license without necessary examinations or who connive with applicants for irregular issuance will be removed from office.

The unqualified applicant on the other hand, will also be fined P20,000. Unqualified applicants cover those who falsified documents, cheated during examinations, connived with officials among others. 

Duterte's approval of the drivers' license validity extension came two months after the Congress approved it last May.

Republic Act No. 10928 extended the validity of Philippine passports to ten years from five years.

The provision does not apply to minors or those under 18 years old, who will only be issued a passport valid for five years.

The government may limit the validity period to less than ten years "whenever in the national economic interest or political stability of the country, such restriction is necessary."

Free internet access in public places

Also signed was Republic Act No. 10929, which establishes a free internet access program in public places.

The law aims to "promote knowledge-building among citizens and enable them to participate and compete in the evolving information and communication age."

Public places to be covered by the free internet access program are national and local government offices, public basic education institutions, state universities and colleges and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority technology institutions, public hospitals, health centers and rural health units, public parks, plazas, libraries and barangay reading centers, public airports and seaports and public transport terminals.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology was authorized to set standards and qualifications in determining which public places shall be included and prioritized in the implementation of the program.

The DICT was tasked to develop a comprehensive plan for the program within one year from the effectivity of the law. The agency was also ordered to ensure that the minimum internet speed per user is two megabits per second as prescribed by the National Broadband Plan.

It was also directed to coordinate with national government agencies, local government units, private sector and concerned groups to ensure that the plans are integrated with those of agencies mandated to provide free internet access.

The DICT may also enter into contracts to undertake the implementation of the law subject to existing regulations. The agency may also forge partnerships with the private sector for the implementation of the program.

Partnership with private sector

Under the law, the excess capacity of private sector partners may be offered to deliver supplemental internet access service for a reasonable fee to the users in areas where program facilities are located. To lower costs, increase and improve free internet access for public places, the law encouraged private service providers to exchange data traffic at domestic internet protocol exchanges which may be designated by the DICT.

Internet service providers are allowed to acquire and use internet connectivity directly from satellites and other emerging technologies to ensure universal coverage.

The law bars "unfair methods of competition and exclusivity arrangements in favor of a single telecommunications entity."

"Any violation of said prohibition shall subject the concerned government officials and employees to administrative penalties under existing civil service laws, rules and regulations," the law read.

The National Telecommunications Commission shall issue rules on minimum standards for quality of service within one year from the effectivity of the law.

The DICT shall impose penalties upon internet service providers that do not comply with the minimum standards set by the NTC and the agreed quality of service as specified in their contract with the department. The law also prohibits managers of the free internet program to collect, use or disclose user data including the collection of anonymous traffic data. It also bars access to pornographic websites.

A Free Public Internet Access Fund to be managed by the DICT will be created to bankroll the implementation of the program. The fund shall be funded out of the spectrum users’ fees collected by the NTC and other sources to be identified by the budget department. 

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