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The Senate passed on third and final reading a measure creating a separate government agency solely focused on growing the information and communications technology (ICT) sector by promoting digital literacy and ICT expertise in the country.
The approval comes just days before Congress adjourns sine die. The Senate will adjourn on June 10 and resume legislative duties after the president's state address in July.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, sponsor of the bill creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology Act (DICT), said the measure is a huge step forward in this age of computers and internet.
Once signed by President Benigno Aquino III into law, Recto said the DICT will be the primary agency "in charge of developing, planning, and promoting the government's ICT agenda."
Recto said the new agency will encourage the growth of the ICT industry by promoting investment opportunities for ICT firms, as well as by creating local and international partnerships to speed up industry growth and competitiveness.
He said creating the DICT would link all government ICT resources and networks under an integrated and harmonized database, thereby expediting information requests to government offices and officials, such as applications for state-issued documents.
Recto said the DICT will establish free internet services in public places and schools.
Senate President Franklin Drilon meanwhile said the measure was part of the key economic reform legislation being pushed in the Senate to help the country adapt to major development challenges like the ASEAN market integration.
"The measure addresses the need for the Philippines to be at par with other ASEAN economies which have cabinet level departments for their ICT sector, especially with our flourishing business process outsourcing (BPO) industry and digitally-savvy populace," Drilon said.
A counterpart bill in the House of Representatives is still pending in the Committee on Information and Communications Technology.
The DICT would be created by merging existing ICT-related agencies under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC); namely the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO), the National Computer Center (NCC), the National Computer Institute (NCI), the Telecommunications Office (TELOF), and the National Telecommunications Training Institute (NTTI).
Also under the proposed measure, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the National Privacy Commission (NPC) and the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center (CICC) would be attached to the DICT for the coordination and implementation of the country's cyber security policies and programs. — Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez/JJ/TJD, GMA News