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DICT admits owing PLDT, Globe around P1.3B over free public wifi project

The Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) bared on Thursday that it has at least P1.3 billion payables to telecommunications companies PLDT and Globe for its free public wifi project.

DICT Secretary Ivan Uy and DICT Assistant Secretary Heherson Assidao made the disclosure during the oversight hearing on DICT’s 2023 budget utilization before the House appropriations panel chaired by Zaldy Co of Ako-Bicol party list.

The figures were revealed after the lawmakers questioned DICT why it has only used 5% of its 2023 budget so far.

“For free public wifi, our payables that is less than P2 billion. For PLDT...we are still reconciling our records because they are claiming more than the amount we have [in our records]. We are [still] cleaning up our beginning balances, [so for PLDT], it goes to around P1 billion,” Assidao said.

“For Globe, it is close to P300 million to P500 million,” Assidao added.

Asiddao said these amounts are on top of DICT’s P1 billion of 'undocumented payables' due to lack of contract.

House Deputy Minority Leader Paul Daza of Northern Samar called out DICT for failing to pay such dues even with a P2.5 billion project for free public wifi in 2023, saying such unpaid deliverables is hampering the government’s free public wifi and national broadband projects

“That is why they (DICT) are having a hard time to implement those projects. No one would bid on free public wifi because they (DICT) have large payables to the telcos, which, for now, provide the bandwidth since we don’t have national broadband yet,” Daza said.

“You [DICT] have so much money, [you should] pay them,” Daza added.

Asiddao did not contest Daza’s observations.

“That is a fair statement and that is our dilemma right now,” Asiddao added.

DICT Chief Uy and Asiddao then said that the recourse for telco companies is to file claims before the Commission on Audit (COA).

“That [payables] will have to be approved by COA,” Uy said.

“It is not incumbent upon us to do that [filing of claims],” Asiddao added.

Daza and House appropriations senior vice chair Stella Quimbo of Marikina City rejected such a defense.

“You are waiting [for them to file claims]? That is unacceptable,” Quimbo said.

“If you are not disputing it, pay it,” Daza added.

Asiddao responded by saying that the DICT is slowly paying its "clean payables", and that the DBM will release P1.5 billion for their documented payables on free public wifi by the third quarter.

“That [payment for telcos] is part of our program this year. We are paying from released cash from DBM so that by the third quarter of this year, we will be able to pay our deliverables,” Asiddao told lawmakers.

“Based on the cash program, the P1.5 billion for free public wifi will be released in the third quarter po,” Asiddao added. 

Globe Telecom, meanwhile, said they are in talks with DICT regarding the unpaid amount. 

"We are in constant communication with the DICT as to the collection of these receivables," said Yolanda Crisanto, Globe’s Chief Sustainability and Corporate Communications Officer to GMA News Online.

GMA News Online also reached out to PLDT for comment but it has yet to reply as of posting time. —VAL, GMA Integrated News