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Gov't urged to allocate P12B for cell towers in far-flung areas

The government must fund the construction of cell towers in far-flung areas in preparation for distance learning in schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Anakalusugan party-list Representative Mike Defensor said Friday.

Defensor said stable internet connection must also be accessible in rural areas to enhance productivity not only in the education sector but also in government and business operations as well.

“An efficient internet connection in far-flung areas is dependent on the number of cell towers available in the area. Telecommunications companies alone cannot produce the needed number of cell towers in those needy areas or “missionary sites”,” he said.

“It is for this reason that I am pushing for the funding by the government on digital infrastructure, particularly on cell sites in missionary areas,” he added.

Defensor noted that the government must step in, considering that private firms cannot be expected to prioritize “missionary cell towers” in their business plans.

“It is in those neglected areas not prioritized by the telcos that the government must give  priority,” he said.

The lawmaker estimates the total cost of cell towers at P12 billion or P6 million per cell tower for 2,000 missionary areas.

To recover such huge state expenditure, Defensor said the government could allow privately-owned telcos to rent the state-owned cell  towers.

Education Undersecretary Nepo Malaluan earlier said that students and teachers are not required to purchase laptops, desktop, and internet connection under the blended learning system for the upcoming school year as long as they avail of the Modified Modular Distance Learning program.

Under the said strategy, learners will be provided self-learning packets in print or digital format while teachers will use mobile messenger chat or text messages to monitor and track the learners.

The learning packets will include the following:

  •     textbooks
  •     alternative delivery mode and self-learning modules by DepEd
  •     modules/materials prepared by Schools Division Office and schools
  •     worksheets prepared by teachers
  •     lesson guides for parents and guardians
  •     other supplies and materials such as notebooks, paper, ballpens, toys and manipulatives
  •     hygiene kits which include alcohol, soap, towels, among others.

With this strategy in place, Malauan said that the online distance learning will only serve as a support or reinforcement for learners who have access to technology.—AOL, GMA News