By Getsy Tiglao
So many good things are happening in the Philippines right now. Shortly after the country concluded its successful hosting of the 31st ASEAN Summit, Filipinos received the good news of better-than-expected third quarter GDP growth of 6.9%, higher even than economic powerhouse China.
GDP or gross domestic product is the total value of goods and services produced by a country. On the back of strong exports, government’s infrastructure spending, and a traditionally strong fourth quarter, economic officials are confident the Philippines can meet its full-year growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 per cent.
Another recent positive news for Filipinos was the announcement that the government will build a national broadband infrastructure, the Luzon Bypass, which will be part of the vast network of undersea Internet cables being built by the Pacific Light Cable Network (co-owned by Facebook) to connect Asia with the mainland United States.
Once completed in 2019 as scheduled, the country can expect faster Internet speeds as well as increased capacity, more than the combined capacity of current providers Globe Telecom and PLDT. Lead state agencies for this momentous project which will be funded by budget allocation are the Bases Conversion Development Authority and the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the broadband deal should have been signed last year if not for the reported objection of then DICT secretary Rodolfo Salalima, who was a former top official of Globe Telecom. A special investigating committee also found out that Salalima “likewise may have prevented the earlier breakup of the duopoly by delaying the use of satellites as a viable option,” Roque said.
Allegedly because of these, Salalima was fired by President Rodrigo Duterte two months ago. The firing of a top Cabinet official showed not only Duterte’s political will in pushing through with his telecom and infrastructure reforms, but also his principled stance as he dismissed Salalima despite the fact that he was a former law school classmate.
Related to this is another positive development – the break-up of the duopoly of Globe and PLDT in the country’s telecom sector. Filipinos have long complained of the poor services of these two foreign-owned telecom firms (Globe is co-owned by Singapore Telecom, and PLDT is majority-owned by Indonesia’s Anthoni Salim).
President Duterte has asked China to come in as the third telecoms carrier in the country, following the extended bilateral meeting between Duterte and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after the ASEAN Summit. It will take only 45 days for the government to approve the project once the proper documents are submitted, assured Roque.
While no specific Chinese company has been mentioned, China’s top three telecom companies are China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile, which are all engaged in the fixed line and mobile phone business. However, China Mobile Ltd. is considered the top telecoms company in the world based on its market value of $215 billion and 849 million customer base.
In other infrastructure news, the Department of Public Works opened recently the 12-kilometer Cagayan Coastal Road, which was started way back in 1997 but repeatedly stalled by right of way issues. This bypass road is designed to reduce travel time by 20 minutes from Laguindingan Airport to Cagayan de Oro City.
Another development that is not Metro Manila-centric is the ongoing construction of the New Bohol International Airport, which is expected to be completed in June 2018. The government just conducted a successful test flight for the new airport, which can acccomodate both domestic and international aircraft and has double the passenger capacity of the current airport in Tagbilaran.
There are so many other good news that Filipinos are feeling mighty proud of their country. It’s just too bad that Western media operators are too caught up with their neoliberal propaganda themes to notice that the Philippines is making great strides economically and politically, while keeping its democratic values intact.