Senators press new DICT Sec Honasan on free WiFi hotspots

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 02 2019 02:49 PM

MANILA - Several senators on Tuesday welcomed the appointment of their former colleague, Gringo Honasan, as secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, despite questions on his qualifications for the post..

Honasan being “mission-oriented” can meet timetables for reforms in the information technology sector, said Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto.

Recto said he was hopeful Honasan would address delays in the rollout of the free public WiFi hotspots around the country.

The program, which has a P8 billion budget since its inception in 2015, only operates 2,677 free Wi-Fi hotspots out of the 34,236 target by the end of 2019.

“I am however optimistic that Secretary Greg will fix the bugs of this program and implement a catch up plan that will cover other areas of concern as well,” Recto said in a statement.

Sen. Sonny Angara urged Honasan to fast-track the setting up of free internet service in state universities and colleges.

Angara said of the country’s 112 SUCs, only 17 have free Wi-Fi hotspots as of December 2018, based on DICT records.

With Honasan at the DICT, the WiFi hotpots rollout will be met with a "greater sense of urgency," Angara said.

The free public Wi-Fi project has a total budget of P1.7 billion for 2018, of which P326 million was for the installation of hotspots in SUCs, while the balance of P1.36 billion was for other public areas such as town halls, airports and other transportation terminals.

Honasan replaced DICT officer-in-charge Eliseo Rio, who served as head of the National Telecommunications Commission during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Top officials of the DICT are required under the law to have at least 7 years of competence and experience in any of the following: information and communications technology, information technology service management, information security management, cybersecurity, data privacy e-Commerce, or human capital development in the ICT sector.

A former soldier who helped install the late president Corazon Aquino, Honasan later joined a series of revolts against her and was granted amnesty in 1992 by former president Fidel Ramos.

He became a senator in 1995 and was reelected in 2001, 2007, and 2013. Honasan ran for vice president in 2016 but lost alongside his running mate former vice president Jejomar Binay Sr.