Only P16.1 billion has been granted by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board for digital infrastructure despite the request of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) to enhance internet infrastructure.

During the 18th board meeting of the National Economic and Development Authority, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved $288 million for the Philippine Digital Infrastructure Project, initiated by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

The flagship project aims to boost broadband connectivity nationwide, particularly in geographically isolated and disadvantaged or remote areas, and strengthen cybersecurity in the country.

PSAC originally requested P240 billion to enhance internet infrastructure and P60 billion annual allocation for DICT to lease towers, build last-mile facilities, and optimize existing telco facilities to provide internet access in 125,000 public facilities, including schools, hospitals and health centers, over four years.

The group recommended commercial cooperation between the government and the private sector to construct 35,000 additional cell sites.

According to the National Telecommunications Commission, there are only 22,405 cell towers in the entire country. It was previously reported that the target is at least 50,000 cell sites to be competitive with its Asian neighbors.

"There must be collaborative efforts between government agencies, particularly the Office of the President and DICT, and the private sector, to equip the workforce with essential competencies for the digital era," president and CEO of UnionDigital Bank and leader of PSAC's digital infrastructure sector Henry Aguda said.

Meanwhile, Globe Telecom president and chief executive officer Ernest Cu said that the passage of legislative measures would support the digital infrastructure such as amending the Building Code of the Philippines.

'Telco and the internet must be widespread, robust, and meaningful, enabling full participation in the digital economy. Currently, policy gaps hinder expansion into rural and underserved areas,' Cu said.

Earlier, the World Bank urged the Philippines to increase investment in broadband infrastructure, following the reports that the country remains behind when it comes to internet connectivity from its neighboring countries.

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