MANILA, Philippines — Despite making significant headways in the Senate in the past few months, the measure that will create the country’s Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) seems to have met a new roadblock as the bicameral conference scheduled on Wednesday was postponed.
According to Senator Angara, the chief proponent of the bill in the Senate, the bicameral meet was canceled “at the request of the House,” without elaborating specific reasons why.
But a government source told InterAksyon.com that the motion filed before the House plenary for the DICT bicameral conference was belatedly withdrawn on Wednesday, effectively canceling the supposed meeting of the two chambers of Congress. It is unknown when the bicameral conference would take place again, although some camps have hinted that it could be set after Congress goes back from recess in May.
The source did not identify who withdrew the motion, but pointed out that such documents are usually processed by the Majority Floor Leader of the House, or Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, a known ally of the Aquino administration.
Taguig Rep. Sigfrido Tinga, the main sponsor of the bill in the lower house, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Prior to the bicameral meet on Wednesday, various ICT industry groups agreed to meet in a forum to discuss how they could best push and support the creation of the DICT.
According to Bettina Quimson, a board member of the Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA) who was present during Wednesday’s forum, the groups talked about how to “best approach the creation of the DICT,” so that whatever the outcome agency is would be for the best of all the stakeholders.
Quimson said they would still be actively rallying for the creation of the DICT, adding that they believe the agency could be established “before the end of the year.”
But another government source pointed out to InterAksyon.com that supporters of the DICT before are not as aggressive in pushing for it now since the DOST has already committed to support the entire industry.
“They don’t want to risk losing that support. Sure, the DICT is a bigger name and could possibly get bigger appropriations, but it would still boil down to who would eventually be sitting at the helm of the DICT,” the source said.
The source is referring to the P500 million fund set aside by President Benigno Aquino III through the Technology Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) last year.
The fund will be used to bolster the IT-BPO industry’s initiatives for talent development, a key element identified by the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) as a factor for growth in the next five years.
The BPAP said it is targeting as much as 1.2 million workers in the industry by 2016, a feat, it said, that could only be achieved with enough support from the government.
Back when the Commission on ICT (CICT) was still in place, the source said the industry did not enjoy such financial benefits from government especially since the commission was only meant as a transition agency, and was receiving very little funding from the administration.
Since the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is now the agency concerned with the IT-BPO industry, the source said it would be easy for the sector to request for more funds from government to support the industry.
The DOST is headed by Sec. Mario Montejo, the brother-in-law of Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa.