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DICT accelerates setup of WiFi hotspots
Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan said the DICT would coordinate and collaborate with the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), state universities and colleges and other education institutions for the prompt installation and deployment of free WiFi internet access relevant to the education sector.
Facebook/Gregorio Honasan

DICT accelerates setup of WiFi hotspots

Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - June 11, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is poised to accelerate the deployment of free WiFi hotspots to address the connectivity needs of the education sector under the new normal, where blended and distance learning will be implemented.

Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan said the DICT would coordinate and collaborate with the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), state universities and colleges and other education institutions for the prompt installation and deployment of free WiFi internet access relevant to the education sector.

“President Duterte expressed his support for the Department of Education’s push for blended and distance learning so that education will continue in the midst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) health emergency,” Honasan said.

“A key factor for this is fast, reliable and secure internet. We are focusing on speeding up infrastructure buildup to address the expected surge in demand for connectivity in the education sector,” he added.

In accordance with the “Free Internet Access in Public Places Act,” the DICT covers the installation of free internet access in public places such as plazas, schools, rural health units, transport terminals, airports, seaports and hospitals.

Around 50 government-designated quarantine facilities nationwide have been provided with free connectivity through the DICT’s Free WiFi for All Program during the COVID-19 health crisis.

In line with its objective of enhancing wireless network coverage and quality of ICT services across the country, the DICT issued Department Circular 008 which provides for the guidelines on shared passive telecommunications tower infrastructure (PTTI).

Under the policy on shared PTTIs, all entities engaged in the business of constructing, managing or operating one or more PTTIs in the Philippines shall register with the DICT.

Upon review and consideration, the agency shall issue to qualified applicant-entities an independent tower company (ITC) certificate of registration valid for five years and renewable for the same period.

Applicant ITCs should have at least the relevant construction experience, registration, license and financial capacity of, or equivalent to, a contractor falling under Category A of the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board to qualify.

Currently, there are 24 ITC participants under the previous common tower issuance.

Sen. Grace Poe lauded the DICT’s policy on tower-sharing.

“It is our earnest hope that this will be a game-changer – to pave the way for our much-desired connectivity that will expand the horizon of opportunities for our people across all walks of life,” Poe said.

Tower-sharing, according to the senator, is a way to address the demand for better, wider and faster internet service, which is a necessity as the country shifts to online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We owe it to our students to have fair and equal access to this digital experience,” she said.

Moratorium

Senators yesterday pushed for a moratorium on student loans as well as flexible tuition payment schemes to help them continue their education even if their families are now experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic.

Sen. Manuel Lapid has filed a bill that seeks to provide moratorium on student loans and debts during times of disasters and emergencies like COVID-19.

Through Senate Bill 1538, Lapid said he wants to “provide adequate relief and protection to students and families suffering from the ravages of calamities and other emergency situations.”

The measure proposes to put a moratorium on the enforcement of payment of all fees, charges and costs relating to the student loan programs for higher education and technical-vocational education and training (TVET).

This will cover loans administered by the higher education institutions (HEIs) or by the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Board, CHED or any other government agency and instrumentality.

“During calamities, disasters or emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic we’re experiencing, millions of Filipinos have lost their incomes,” Lapid said in a statement.

He added that during hard times, families prioritize basic needs like food and medicines, while education expenses are put on hold.

The moratorium covers the period of the declaration of a national and local state of calamity or emergency up to 30 days from termination thereof.

If the covered period exceeds 60 days, however, the payment of fees, charges and costs shall be further deferred until the end of the next academic semester or term.

Outdated learning materials

Meanwhile, the DepEd has warned the public against the unauthorized distribution and printing of outdated or unaccredited workbooks and learning materials.

DepEd Undersecretary for administration Alain del Pascua said they have received reports of chain emails containing links to learning materials claiming to be authorized and official versions approved by the agency.

“We have received reports of chain emails circulating containing links to learning materials claiming to be from DepEd and DepEd Commons,” Pascua said, referring to the online resource portal launched by the agency last March.

“Do not be hoodwinked by these emails purporting to be helping for a cause, but are in fact misleading. Our parents, learners, and teachers need only to visit commons.deped.gov.ph to access all of our learning materials for free,” he added.

All learning materials, including workbooks and worksheets for students, are still being quality assured by the DepEd’s Bureau of Learning Resources, according to Del Pascua.

He said many of the circulating materials are outdated and do not conform with the most essential learning competencies identified in the updated K-12 curriculum that would be implemented in the coming school year.

Student stipends

In another development, CHED has reminded 264 private HEIs to submit documents needed to process the financial assistance for their students.

CHED chairman J. Prospero De Vera III said the lack of billing requirements from the HEIs resulted in the delay in the processing and release of the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES) stipends of some 6,628 student beneficiaries.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already informed CHED of the impending release of the remaining TES funds for the previous school year, according to De Vera.

These funds, however, cannot be given to the qualified student-grantees if their respective private HEIs do not have the necessary submissions, he said.

Last month, 120,798 students from 404 private HEIs received their TES subsidies following the release of P3.6 billion from the DBM. Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero, Janvic Mateo

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