• Melo Acuna

SMART-PLDT and Globe both committed to blended learning

United efforts needed for blended learning

MANILA – With Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones, other school officials and teachers expressing confidence blended learning will work, other members of the Academe and telecom officials called on national and local government officials to work together and assure the community of the needed facilities.

Smart-PLDT First Vice President and Public Affairs group head Ramon Isberto said it is never easy to install cell sites across the country. Speaking at the weekly Public Affairs program Tapatan sa Aristocrat, Isberto said the pandemic has exposed the concerns long raised by telecom companies in the Philippines.

“You will need at least 26 permits and at times 30 to 35 permits not just from local government units. When you install fiber optics, you will need right-of-way and homeowners clearances,” Isberto said.

He added the pandemic should bring about change in attitudes of some government officials.

The government has introduced already enacted Republic Act 9485 known as “An Act to Improve Efficiency in the Delivery of Government Service to the Public by Reducing Bureaucratic Red Tape, Preventing Graft and Corruption, and Providing Penalties therefore which is also known as the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 and Republic Act 11032 known as the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 but telecom outfits have been hampered in their development programs due to inefficiencies across the bureaucracy.

Globe Telecom’s Senior Vice President Yoly Crisanto with the CPVOD-19 pandemic, a lot of awareness on the importance of connectivity has been generated.

“It has become a national priority and now government institutions have taken our side and began listening to us,” she said.

She explained telecom providers will definitely bridge the gap between teachers and pupils as concerns have been raised on safety during face-to-face instructions.

Education Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio, representing Education Secretary Briones in yesterday’s Tapatan sa Aristocrat said the Department is seriously addressing concerns from parents, teachers and the community in general. He said there is still enough time to attend to the issues raised by the different sectors.

Both Mr. Isberto and Ms. Crisanto expressed optimism the government can help them expand their services in the countryside to bridge the digital divide.

“The public and private sector, local government units and the national government should get together for us in the telecom companies to roll out our facilities to as many areas as possible,” Ms. Crisanto explained.

With COVID-19, people now use internet more often and telcos need to expand their facilities to address the growing demand as more people now work from home in addition to thousands if not millions of pupils and students into blended education.

In one of the latest studies in 2018 by The Asia Foundation and Better Broadband Alliance revealed 45 % of the 103 million individuals then and 61% of the 23 million households and 74% of the 46,700 public schools had to internet access.

The study found out internet access in 2018 was expensive as fixed broadband (postpaid) service was considered unaffordable because it costs 7.1% of the country’s gross national income (GNI) per capita per month or the average monthly earnings of Filipinos as it is about the 5% affordability threshold recommended by the ITU and over the 2% recommended by the Alliance for Affordable Internet.

Ms. Crisanto said in support of the government’s programs to utilize internet in blended learning, they have significantly reduced costs to make it affordable.

Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada, PAPSCU and COCOPEA spokesperson said while the government has enacted Republic Act 10929 known as the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act of 2017 there is much to be desired. Not all areas have free internet access.

The Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) will have to make its presence felt as the country grapples with the headwinds brought about by COVID-19. The long-awaited National Broadband Project has remained a work in progress.

Ms. Crisanto reiterated Globe Telecom’s thrusts in supporting STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) in public and private schools while Mr. Isberto said SMART-PLDT has been supporting Distance Learning Program (DLP) for the past ten years across the country.

Both SMART-PLDT and Globe Telecom, Inc. have co-sponsored webinars with the Department of Education for public school teachers. (Melo M. Acuña)

Mr. Ramon "Mon" Isberto, PLDT-Smart's 1st VP and Group Head of Public Affairs (left) and Ms. Yolanda "Yoly" Crisanto, Senior Vice President of Globe Telecom, Inc. said both telcos are helping the government's blended education program. (Screen grab from Tapatan sa Aristocrat/Melo M. Acuna)

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