Friday, November 21, 2014

Senate OKs funding for 60,000 free WiFi spots

MANILA-The Senate version of the 2015 national budget funds the setting up of at least 50,872 free Wi-Fi spots  all over the country so Internet access can aid learning, link farmers and traders to markets, and connect the public to information that will improve their lives.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Senate Finance committee has recommended to increase next year’s budget of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Public Wi-Fi Program from P338 million to P3 billion.

Recto, who chairs the Finance subcommittee in charge of the DOST, said agency officials led by Secretary Mario Montejo “welcome, support and are pleased with the Senate initiative.”

Last Tuesday, Senate Finance committee chair Sen. Francis Escudero read the amendment on the floor.

If implemented the program will provide Wi-Fi service to 7,917 public high schools, 38,694 public elementary schools, 113 state colleges, 1,118 public libraries, public spaces in 1,490 towns.

In the blueprint drafted by the DOST, Wi-Fi connectivity will also be installed in 895 provincial, regional hospitals, and government-run medical centers in Metro Manila.

“The reason behind this is that if you’re a son of an OFW and you would like to Skype with your father who is in the Middle East because a member of the family has been stricken ill, then you can do it within the hospital premises,” Recto said.

“Or if the hospital staff would like to transmit patient data, then there’s a facility for that.”  

Recto said the rationale behind the program is to tap it for social good. “So it’s the reason why it will be set up in libraries and schools so it can aid in research and instruction, and promote reading.”

The senator said Wi-Fi will also be set up in Public Employment Service Offices to help the jobless search for employment.   

“It will also be set up in town halls.  Kaya kung, halimbawa, ang isa ay malapit sa Municipal Agriculture Office, pwedeng gamitin ito upang alamin ang presyo ng gulay sa Maynila. Ito naman ang layunin talaga : to help real farms and not just to play Farmville.”

“Or kung nasa Civil Registrar’s office ka at may problema ka sa birth certificate mo, doon mismo pwede kang tumawag sa sino mang makakatulong sa ‘yo.”

Free Wi-Fi will also be installed in 85 airports, 41 seaports and 69 LRT, MRT and PNR stations, Recto said.

“DOT has declared 2015 as Visit Philippines Year. Not only that, we are expecting visitors ranging from the Pope to Putin. If we’re expecting millions more travelers, then among the convenience we can offer them is free Wi-Fi,” Recto said.

Pope Francis will visit the Philippines on the third week of January while Russian leader Vladimir Putin will join 20 other Pacific Rim leaders for the APEC Leaders’ Summit in November.

“Alam natin kung gaano kahalaga ang komunikasyon sa byahe. Kung nasa NAIA ka at na-delay ang flight mo ng tatlong oras, may paraan ka para maabisuhan ang sundo mo.”

“Or kung sakay ka ng isang tumirik na MRT, at may kailangan kang ipadalang dokumento, pwede mong gawin iyon kung may Wi-Fi signal sa loob ng bagon.”

“If our vehicular highways are congested, then we should tap the information highway and we can telecommute if the infra is there,” he said.

Recto said the Wi-Fi funding was a result of the Senate’s decision to defer by one year the lease-purchase by the DBM of laptops which will later be issued to selected government employees. 

“I think it is the win-win situation. We set up the access points first. Kasi ngayon ang ang teachers, halimbawa, ay may mga smartphones na. Ang problema nila ay hindi sila maka-connect sa Internet. Then kung nakatayo na ito, we bring in the laptops.”

“Gusto rin kasi natin na palawakin ang laptop program ng DBM. Isang mungkahi dito sa Senado ay isama ang pulis para meron silang handheld device na kung may nahuli man na snatcher o pasaway na driver, pwedeng i-search na kaagad kung may previous record ang mga ito.” 

Legarda: T’boli Dreamweavers to Showcase their Craft at National Museum

MANILA-T’boli weavers from Lake Sebu, South Cotabato will showcase their famous dream-inspired weaving during a two-day demonstration at the National Museum, said Senator Loren Legarda.

Legarda, patron of the country’s first permanent textile gallery, Hibla ng Lahing Filipino, said that the T’bolis are the featured weavers at the gallery on November 22-23, from 1:30-4:30 p.m.

“For the T’bolis of Lake Sebu, weaving, embroidery, beadwork and belt-making are important skills in keeping traditions alive because every item they make is an important part of their life,” she said.

For instance, the t’nalak is a cloth made of abaca that is usually used by the T’bolis during milestones like birth, marriage and death; while the embroidery they use to accentuate their traditional blouses narrate the story of their relationship with nature and the spirits.
“T’boli weavers are often called dreamweavers because the patterns they use for weaving are usually inspired by their dreams. The weaving demonstration is a chance for citizens to interact with these weavers,” said Legarda as she encouraged Filipinos to visit the museum for the demonstration.

The weekly weaving demonstrations at the Hibla gallery are part of the Lecture Series on Philippine Traditional Textiles and Indigenous Knowledge, which Legarda, in partnership with the National Museum, initiated since 2012 to perpetuate weaving and indigenous knowledge.

Previous demonstrators include the Ifugao weavers from Kiangan; the Kalinga weavers from Mabilong Weaving Center of Buscalan; weavers from Samoki, Mountain Province;sinamay weavers from Arevalo, Iloilo; the Panay Bukidnons who showed their panubokembroidery; patadyong weavers from the Bagtason Loom Weavers Association in Bugasong, Antique; weavers from the Yakan Village in Zamboanga City; and Mandaya weavers from Caraga, Davao Oriental.

The weaving demonstrations can be viewed on Saturdays and Sundays, at the Hibla gallery, located at the 4th Floor of the Museum of the Filipino People, Finance Road, Manila.

Drilon: Malicious lies and accusations vs. ICC to blame for project snags

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today said that the baseless allegations weaved from Wikipedia articles and whispered rumors are to be blamed for the latest delays on the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC), which is gunning for completion in time for the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Iloilo City.

Drilon underscored that the accusations made by a known political operator against the ICC, which is now the subject of a Senate probe, is “directly responsible for the failure of bidding for the second phase of the ICC’s construction.”
“Because of the malicious and baseless allegations against the construction of the ICC, contractors and other participants are getting afraid that their names and businesses will be the next target of lies being concocted, and that their names will be dragged into the issue,” said Drilon.

He cited the statements of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Region VI Director Edilberto Tayao, who admitted that the ICC project is facing delays because contractors have apprehension participating in the bidding to complete the project.

“Contractors with the capability to complete a project as big as the ICC did not join anymore, and those who remained were hesitant to bid at lower than P200 million, which is above the project’s approved budget of contract of P187 million,” according to Tayao, adding that major contractors who had previously participated in the bidding for the ICC’s first phase did not do so anymore in the second bidding conducted last October 20.

Tayao also noted that due to the delay, the project’s completion is pushed back to May or June of 2015: “It will take another month to find a qualified contractor for the project’s Phase 2. If that second bidding also fails, we then have to go into a negotiated bidding, as permitted under law.”

“It is unfortunate that just because of lies, and of spiteful and baseless allegations hurled against the project and its proponents and implementers, Ilonggos could lose the opportunity of hosting the 2015 APEC meetings, along with all the tourism and economic developments prospects that this event brings,” Drilon stressed. 

Drilon said he agreed with the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Iloilo City that the ICC overpricing issue could “delay the edifice’s completion and jeopardize Iloilo City’s hosting of the APEC ministerial meetings.”

“If that happens, Ilonggos stand to lose the chance to make new jobs and sources of livelihoods in their communities. This is a very rare opportunity we fear we can never have again,” he emphasized.

The Senate chief said he will continue to answer questions regarding his participation in the ICC project. But he wished that the Iloilo and its developmental plans be spared from politically-motivated smear campaigns.

“I have nothing to hide, and I will hide nothing. But this sinister agenda of some should not spoil the progress of Ilonggos, who have been trying to achieve their dreams of progress in the past years, made possible by opportunities provided by the present administration,” Drilon concluded. 


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