KORONADAL CITY, SOUTH COTABATO – The Economy Response Cluster (ERC) of the Regional Task Force (RTF) on Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has set its eye on strengthening digital connectivity, specifically internet and virtual access as the community is transitioning to the new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During its 5th ERC XII Meeting on July 22, 2020 via virtual videoconferencing, key resource persons from telecommunication companies in Region 12 such as PLDT, Smart, Globe, MarbelTel, and officials from DICT and NTC, were invited to shed light on issues and present their current initiatives in improving technological/internet connectivity within the region. This matter was part of the agreements reached during the previous RTF ERC XII meeting to discuss ways to address the surge of demand for internet connectivity in SOCCSKARGEN, most specifically at the Prime Regional Government Center where most of the National Government Agencies reside. These agencies share the same experience of having difficulty in accessing good and reliable internet and mobile connection, which hamper their day-to-day operation and rendering of service to the public.

Chairperson of the RTF XII ERC and NEDA XII Regional Director, Teresita Socorro C. Ramos, stressed the importance of discussing such matter, hearing first hand from the telecommunication companies their initiatives in helping the government and the community strengthen their interconnectivity through telecommunications. RD Ramos added that due to the country’s present state, the government and the people rely so much on internet and mobile connectivity, notwithstanding the need for it by the other sectors, business and education as we live under the new normal.

The Economy Response Cluster considers it an immediate need, not only because we are decades behind,  but it is already an inevitable necessity in current normal trends. Students need stable internet connection as the education sector ventures into online and distance learning modality.  Government and private entities adopt Work-From-Home (WFH) arrangements, which also require reliable internet service.

Mr. Louie Perez, the technical representative of Smart Communications shared to the members their short and medium term solutions such as the optimization of towers and baseline testing in improving signal strength at the PRGC area. Smart Telecom is said to be assessing the dominance of the signal strength and whether further improvements could be made without constraints in further signal interference. Globe, Marbeltel and other companies also shared updates during the said meeting and answered queries from the cluster members.

DICT on their part admitted that there is a need for the government to establish a national broadband network as our network backbone since private companies cannot cope with the rising demand for reliable and fast internet connectivity. The DICT is now rolling out  infrastructures to address this concern, especially in remote areas not served by private telcos.

ERC agreed to invite again the said telecommunication companies in its next meeting to provide updates on their interventions on how to improve internet and signal strength in the region. (Judd Nichol L,. Leonar, NEDA XII-PDIPBD)