The Philippines Has Arrived

Written October 1, 2010 to record the first public hearing on the proposed bill for the creation of a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)

Atty. Jocelle Batapa Sigue presents the position paper of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP) in support for the House Bill creating a department for information and communications technology in 2010.

There was certainty in his voice – the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) would show the world that the “Philippines has arrived” as in fact it has, based on our country’s superlative standing in the ICT global market today. I trust Congressman Roilo Golez and his like-minded legislators will deliver.  

Rooms 14 and 15 of the Mitra Building at the Batasan Complex were not really crowded last September 29 at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. In fact, there were no signs of media, except for one or two photographers. That was not your usual controversial congressional hearing on laws or issues. Unknown to many, however that congressional  hearing that went on very smoothly was not also about the usually “noisy”, “insignificant” (to our economy) brouhahas that people love to sensationalize. It was much more serious and the people who filled the round-table knew they are going to participate in something that will cause dramatic improvement to this country.

In fact, Congressman Sarmiento of Samar, sitting next to me, whispered, why don’t you make your statements public, and inform as many people of the importance of this bill. I smiled and said – we did and we will continue to do. But information and communications technology (ICT) is not show business or hostage drama – so it doesn’t attract much media attention.

I went to Batasan, not knowing what to expect, all I know is I want to see my country rise from the ashes. In my ears, still rings what a 70 year-old man told me two days ago – “too much poverty, too big a gap between the poor and the rich”.  These statements always pierce my heart. As a child, I began to wonder why the disparity even before I attended school.

In that room, everyone silently knew that ICT is going to strike a balance. The poor will have a chance – if he is smart and industrious – and given a push. I can sense it as representatives from the Department of Education raised the issue of lack of ICT facilities in the schools, when TESDA highlighted the fact that trainings in contact centers and ICT are their most popular, when some government officials mentioned how government can be made more responsive and efficient with e-governance is in place, when the CICT stated that we are the only country in Asia (except for Laos and Cambodia) that does not have a ministry or department for ICT,  and when I, in behalf of the NICP, mentioned the ICT industry’s impact to many cities and provinces outside of Metro Manila.  

With all that is in my heart – I spoke before the congressional hearing on the creation of the Department of ICT that day saying – “from a handful in 2004 to almost 8,000 jobs in the information and communications technology industry today” to describe the experience of Bacolod as chair of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP). NICP’s stand is to push for the creation of DICT.

I read our NICP resolution supporting the creation of the DICT in order to sustain the gains of the ICT industry in terms of job and revenue generation, to propel social and economic growth in the countryside, to ensure the country’s competitiveness not only in voice but in non-voice and high value services such IT engineering, animation, web and game development, back office, software programming, transcription.

I emphasized that the current Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) have been instrumental in helping cities and provinces especially outside of Metro Manila to step up to the challenge of the growing ICT industry.

I was not the only one there. With me in spirit are the men and women behind the Bacolod-Negros Federation for ICT (BNEFIT) whom I represent as its chair as well as the men and women of Metro Clark ICT Council represented by Dodie Elvina, Cebu Educational Foundation for IT (CEDF-IT) by Jun Sa-a, Davao ICT Council by Bert Barriga, Cagayan De Oro ICT Council by Jesse Abear and Albay ICT Association by Rosemarie Quinto-Rey and Ellen Cabarles. The night before, we had our 3rd Quarterly Meeting and with us in planning for our consensus in the congressional hearing were Iloilo Federation for IT (IFIT) represented by Jessraf Palmares, ICT@Bicol Council by Dan De Leon, ICT Solutions Association of Region 12 – General Santos City (ISA 12-GSC) by Raymund Diaz, Iligan City ICT Council by Dr. Emmanuel Lagare, Laguna Industry Network for Knowledge, Innovation & Technology Foundation (LINK-IT) by Tony Del Carmen and Metro Ilocos Norte ICT Council by Governor Imee Marcos.

The CICT was represented by its new chair, Ivan John Uy presented facts and figures supporting the acceleration of the current commission from a mere office to a department considering its exponential impact on our economy.  

The blessing came at the end of the hearing when as chair of NICP, I was asked to be part of the technical working group created to finalize the bill.

The hearing was jointly called by the Committees on Government Reorganization and ICT chaired by Representatives Cesar Jalosjos and Sigfrido Tinga, respectively.  House Bills Nos. 16, 64, 498, 1508, 1896, and 1230, authored by Representatives Roilo Golez, Luis Villafuerte, Edgardo Angara, Jr., Marcelino Teodoro, Ben Evardone, and Winston Castelo are all house bills separately proposing for the creation of the DICT in the 15thCongress.

All six bills, which were consolidated yesterday, received the full support of not only the NICP but of all the government agencies and departments who were represented in the hearing, namely, the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Civil Service Commission (CSC), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Intellectual Property Office and the Philippine Postal Corporation. The Business Process Outsourcing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) composed of industry players also manifested their full support to the bill.

Each and every agency present manifested their full support including the Department of Budget.

The quest has just begun. For the first I felt the Philippines is going to soar like an eagle again.

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