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Poor Internet services bad for tourism sector

Ehda Dagooc (The Freeman) - March 8, 2016 - 9:00am

Philippine net: Costliest, slowest in Asia 

CEBU, Philippines - The very pricey and snail-paced internet services in the Philippines is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to tourism growth, most particularly with Cebu’s positioning as a MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibit) destination, a tourism leader said yesterday.

"Cebu is MICE destination. It is attracting high-end market, and these people need high speed internet connection," said Network of Independent Travel Agencies (NITAs) president Robert Lim Joseph.

Joseph who was in Cebu yesterday, said that no matter how the telecommunication networks defend this problem, the Philippines still has the most expensive and the slowest internet connection in Asia.

While this problem is anticipated to affect the high-brow or the high-spending MICE groups, this will likewise discourage even the individual or leisure travelers, as internet has become part of everyone's daily regimen.

"Tourism cannot grow [to hit our potential] if our telecommunication providers will not address the connectivity speed," said Joseph adding that for business tourists such as those traveling here for MICE may willingly pay the high cost for as long as connection is seamless.

The top five areas that telecom companies should prioritize in improving internet speed infrastructure include Cebu, Bohol, Boracay, Dumaguete and Palawan.

"Data connection should be improved, gadget sales performance is largely dependent with the quality of network service," said Jun Yap, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Junrex Cellphones & Accessories Inc., one of the largest tech gadget retailer and distributor in Cebu.

Yap confirmed Joseph's observation saying "we’re supposed to be advanced in connectivity. But Internet connection/wifi is still very slow and also very expensive compared to other countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan."

Telecom giants like Smart Communications and Globe Telecom had already drafted their respective masterplans to "blanket" the Philippines with LTE (Long Term Evolution), Yap however said consumers are already demanding for it now.

Meanwhile, Philippine Telephone Long Distance Company (PLDT) vowed to put its foot forward in putting significant investments to master the technology that will well support the fast adoption of digital services, said company's head for public affairs Ramon Isberto.

In an interview, Isberto said the industry is now rattling off to improve its capacity to serve the fast growing demand for data bandwidth.

Last year, PLDT and its subsidiary Smart Communications spent P43 billion, in capital expenditure, for network capacity upgrading. This year and 2017, the company poses to spend similar or higher amount of investments.

"We have to elevate our level of investments, to fortify and increase the capacity of network and support the demand for data services," he emphasized.

Unlike other countries though, the Philippines, being an archipelago, requires more expensive investment in putting sophisticated infrastructure, explaining that some installations have to be put underwater--and this is expensive to install and maintain.

"Being an archipelago poses a bigger challenge for us. But we just have to keep on investing," Isberto said. (FREEMAN)

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