Speech by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at the Telco Summit

Speeches 6 December 2022

Thank you, the ARTA Director General Ernesto Perez. [Please sit down.]

Our constant companion these days in all that we are doing as we encourage businesses to come to the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President George Barcelon; all my fellow workers in government; other distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

I am very happy to be able to join at this Telco Summit, which I am sure is going to be important and instrumental in realizing our vision of a truly digital Philippines.

I think that it is impossible to overstate the importance of the telco industries, the importance of digitalization, the importance of improving the ease of doing business for all the plans that we have for the Philippines.

And that’s why my gratitude goes to the organizers of the event, to ARTA, its partner agencies, for your shared efforts to engage stakeholders towards developing a fast and developing telecommunications system and digitalization of our systems in our country.

As I said, the digitalization process is going to be a very important part of improving our ease of doing business and we will, of course the first phase as I see it, is to digitalize the bureaucracy.

Now, the bureaucracy, the national government, and down to the LGUs. Now the development of digitalization in our country has been – there have been areas, for example, in the LGUs, I see some very progressive LGU chief executives who have gone ahead and digitalized their areas, and have gone ahead of the, in fact, of the national government.

There are sectors, there are agencies in the national government, especially in the Finance sector, especially in – for example, the Science and Technology sector, all of these have already digitalized and it is good to see that people have taken the initiative.

Now, it is up to us to put the system together so that we have a system – we have a data center, we have a repository of data to which the different agencies have access to.

This will simplify everything that we do with – in the business of government as we try to process and we try to serve the public in giving them all the services that are necessary and making it easy for them to avail of those services.

That’s why this endeavor is imperative, especially now that we live in a very dynamic [and] fast-changing world, where we are around all these smart devices and we have the means, we have the potential to make our lives easier.

The way the landscape changes accelerates faster than ever, compelling us to be even smarter, even bolder in finding digital solutions
to many problems.

However, on the other side of that coin, the encouraging part is technology will provide those solutions, that it is up to us to find them. But technology is there to provide the solutions that technology itself may have brought to the system.

And that’s why it is ongoing. It is not something that we say we fixed, finished. You cannot, you cannot leave it. You must stay. It is one of those situations that if you are standing still, you’re going backwards.

And it is not as if we have a choice in doing this. It is not for us merely an option. Maybe we should digitalize, maybe not. It’s not that way at all.

If we are to survive, and even more so if we are to flourish in the post-pandemic economy, we must digitalize. And we must digitalize – digitalize and digitize as quickly as possible and continue to do so taking full advantage, exploiting the new technologies, the best technologies.

And when I talk about technology, I don’t mean just hardware or software when it comes to processing. But I mean also the new ideas, the new strategies, the new techniques that people have found to be successful in their experiences maybe in other countries, maybe in other areas of the Philippines.

But it is up to us to search for them, to actively search for those solutions. They do exist. It is up to us to find them. And if they still do not exist, then it is also up to us to find a way to gain that knowledge, to do the research, to find the technology, to gain that knowledge so we bring it onto our systems to make them better.

So I am very excited to see that all the important players in this industry are here to discuss ways of identifying bottlenecks and areas of improvement in the telecommunications sector and moving toward a future-proof Philippines.

Achieving a more connected and genuinely digital Philippines is not possible without you, our stakeholders in the telecoms sector.

You have demonstrated the crucial role of the telecoms sector in the delivery of basic services to our people, especially during the height of the COVID pandemic.

Many other aspects of our society amidst restrictions and lockdowns have found – have found those solutions, have found refuge in their telecommunications capabilities.

So as we reopen ourselves to the world, we go ahead with our initiatives to enhance our digital infrastructure, to improve our services, and make sure that it will benefit the public.

The work that you are doing here is part of the building blocks we are gradually putting together into place to enable a Philippines that is ready for the future.

It is the goal of this Administration to build a truly Digital Philippines, which is why we are doubling our efforts to reach the most remote parts of the country by providing access to mobile cellular services and wi-fi.

In fact, we have been firm in intensively rolling out key programs such as the BroadBand ng Masa Program, the Free Wi-Fi for All Program, the Zamboanga-Basilan Wireless Broadband Network, [and] the establishment of the National Government Data Center.

These are just some of the projects that we are undertaking to make our people more adaptable and connected especially in this age of what we have come to call the New Normal.

We also are streamlining the efforts of government in processing and issuance of permits and licenses to accelerate the development of telecommunication [and] internet infrastructure in the country. This I think everyone has realized is a crucial part of our development.

In that we should – we work towards having the connectivity and also having the capability that once we connect to remote places, that they have the capability of doing business with the government without having to go to the main offices. They can do it over the internet. And that will streamline, that will immediately make it more – make it a quicker, more efficient way of dealing with our citizenry.

The Central Bank has already – has already achieved its goal ahead of schedule of having 50 percent of payments to the Central Bank and payments by the Central Bank, 50 percent over the internet. And we are continuing to do that to reach eventually a 100 percent.

So that is the ideal and that is what we need to do. And if we are able to do that, we have to – for us to be able to do that, we still have to improve our connectivity.

Our connectivity rate is still pretty low. We are still below 70 percent and that’s not good enough, especially for an archipelagic country such as ours where connectivity is exceedingly important because we have many isolated communities who need some form of contact, some form of communication with the rest of the country, with the rest of the world.

And that is why that is a priority and that is why as I said at the very start, it is impossible to overstate the importance of connectivity, of the telcos, of all of our new technologies over the internet, whether it be by fiber optic cable, whether it be Starlink, whether it be from a satellite. Whatever the system is appropriate, we need to explore it and we need to apply it.

So these are the elements that we are having to deal with. These are the options that we are choosing from. But we have to move quickly. When I look around when I was in ASEAN and APEC, I saw that we are not too badly off but we could do so much better.

And if we are to compete properly with our neighbors and that time will come and it is coming now very, very quickly upon us, that time will – when that time comes, we will have to compete with our neighbor countries because the region is still going to be — in my estimation, in my view, this region is still going be the driver of the global economy as soon as things “normalize.”

So I think – and that’s why we will have to compete and we will have to cooperate with our neighbors in the region, and to do that, we must be at the very least at the same level of digitalization as they are. Right now, we are not quite there but let us work hard at it.

That’s why I encourage the relevant government agencies [and] our private sector partners to ensure that these efforts will be implemented, they will be strengthened, and translated into a more efficient delivery of government services.

Our digital infrastructure and services will definitely change – has already changed the way we experience the world around us. It has changed everything. It has changed — the pandemic changed everything and the internet changed right along with it.

We work differently, we shop differently. I mean, I don’t need to repeat all of that. You all know it. You experienced it all yourselves.

So that is the world that we have to adjust to. As daily consumers of information and technology, we must learn to capitalize on this sector in order to be more productive in ways we can only imagine.

It is my hope that the summit will serve as an avenue to break barriers amongst regulating agencies. You have started a good work already. I saw in your report the lessening of the requirements – the documentary requirements, the days of processing from 800 plus days. Does that actually happening? [laughter]

I was astounded, 886 days? Oh my God. We can’t do that anymore. We are going to have to – we are going to have to improve. Well, you’ve gone a long way. You are down to I think 26? Yeah. So that’s a very… [applause]

That is a very significant improvement. But that is precisely the kind of thing that we have to do. And that is exactly what ARTA was created to do.

And I am glad to see that very much we are doing, we are doing – we are seeing the progress in terms of making it easy for government to work and to serve its people.

There is another aspect to digitalization and that is we must also be ready. We have espoused very much the partnerships between the private sector and the public sector. The private sector is highly digitalized. So if we are to do business with the private sector, government must also be highly digitalized.

So with your support, your cooperation, your active participation in these endeavors, I am confident that we can build a digital backbone that is not only strong, efficient, robust, but it also exhibits the hallmarks of accessibility, reliability, and inclusiveness.

So let us work, let us work towards building a program that is brighter – that will bring a brighter and more connected tomorrow for every Filipino.

Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat. Magandang hapon po at mabuhay po kayo. [applause]

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SOURCE: OPS-PND (Presidential News Desk)