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Lawmaker wants ABS-CBN's former frequencies used for distance learning

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Lawmaker wants ABS-CBN's former frequencies used for distance learning
A guard passes logo of ABS-CBN at the network’s compound, a day it was ordered shut by National Telecommunications Commission, May 6, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varca

MANILA, Philippines — Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte (Camarines Sur) wants the television and radio frequencies previously used by ABS-CBN Corp. used for the education department's alternative distance learning program. 

Villafuerte, who also sits as House deputy speaker, filed House Resolution No. 1044 Tuesday morning calling on the government to make use of the frequencies to assist students starting August. 

Villafuerte's resolution comes days after he voted against the renewal of beleaguered network's franchise. With the loss of the franchsie went the right to broadcast over the frequencies. 

"Now, therefore, be it resolved, as it is hereby resolved that the House of Representatives recommend the temporary use by the government of ABS-CBN former television and radio frequencies for distance learning, instruction, training and other useful purposes to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on education in the Philippines," the resolution reads.

The government owns the frequency spectrum, which it allocates to broadcasters and to telecommunications service providers.

It is unclear whether government has the infrastructure and equipment to use the frequencies previously used by the broadcast giant.

The prospect of distance learning has been met with much scrutiny, with many advocates raising lack of access to the internet and to gadgets as a barrier to online learning.

RELATED: No face-to-face classes as Duterte OKs DepEd's 'blended' learning proposal

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has said that under the department's new blended learning program, students who do not have access to computers or the internet can also be reached via television or radio.

Groups across a number of sectors have said that the modes included under the program involve the purchasing of gadgets, including smartphones, laptops, television sets and transistor radios, on top of the costs of internet connections, electricity, and transportation. 

"[T]he unused frequencies may also be used for information on COVID-19 prevention and control, risk-reduction and preparedness," the resolution adds. 

On Friday, an overwhelming 70 lawmakers made good on President Rodrigo Duterte's threats in 2019 that he would shut down ABS-CBN, denying the network's bid for a new franchise and effectively leaving over 11,000 jobless in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Furor from media groups has only gotten louder since the decision. One statement signed by more than 1,000 journalists and media workers in the industry read: "The 70 lawmakers clearly want to treat the press as a propaganda machine that will serve their political interests, embellish their image, and parrot their spin."

Franco Luna with a report from News5/Ria Fernandez

ABS-CBN FRANCHISE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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