DICT Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Management Philip Varilla (standing fourth from left) and Palawan Governor Dennis Socrates (fifth from left) activated together the 37 free WiFi sites across the province on February 5 at the VJR Hall of the Provincial Capitol Compound. Also in the photo are PhilSA Director General Dr. Joel Marciano (first from left), DICT Mimaropa Regional Director Cheryl Ortega (second from left), USAID Program Officer Allyson Gardner, and DICT Assistant Secretary for Regional Development Maria Teresa Camba (last from left).

Palawan’s internet connectivity received a major boost with the recent rollout of free WiFi across 37 strategic and underserved locations, including key tourism hubs, through the Broadband ng Masa Project of the information and communications technology department.

The official activation of the Broadband ng Masa (BBM) in Palawan took place on February 6 at the Provincial Capitol Compound in Puerto Princesa City, back-to-back with the launch of the Philippine Space Agency’s (PhilSA) Project INCENTIVISE.

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Assistant Secretary for Infostructure Management Philip Varilla said that the 37 free WiFi access sites will serve to bridge the digital divide, enhance quality of life, and foster social and economic development among users.

The municipalities included in the list are Busuanga, Coron, Culion, Cuyo, El Nido, Taytay, San Vicente, Roxas, Narra, and Puerto Princesa City.

Varilla said that for the Broadband ng Masa Project, they adopted a “technology-neutral approach” to providing internet service, which means not prioritizing or exclusively relying on a single technology for delivering connectivity in tourist spots.

They’ve established 23 sites and 115 access points under the WiFi Internet Access in Tourist Spots initiative in Palawan.

Additionally, within the framework of the Provision of Internet Access via Low-Earth Orbit Satellites (PIALEOS), they are employing low-earth orbit satellites to deliver connectivity via access sites located in nine areas.

Through the collaboration between DICT and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), they have also deployed very small aperture terminals (VSATs) to equip five locations with access points.

“These are the different projects that we are launching here. This is in addition to the previously installed WiFi access points in Palawan. One project is in SUCs (State Colleges and Universities). We have some SUCs that are very far and they only get internet service from our Free WiFi for All Program,” he said.

Varilla conveyed the DICT’s appreciation for the teamwork and partnership among various entities, including the U.S. government via USAID BEACON (Better Access and Connectivity) Project, PhilSA, and local government units.

Citing also the establishment of a community network in Kalayaan town through the Satellite internet terminal provided by PhilSA, Varilla emphasized the DICT’s objective of forging collaborative partnerships to ensure connectivity for all Filipinos, particularly those in remote areas.

“These are all necessary steps in bringing broadband service to all, and with these collaborations, we hope we will not just connect, connect, connect, but reconnect meaningfully,” he stated

Broadband ng Masa is a government initiative aimed at providing affordable and accessible internet connectivity to the general public to bridge the digital divide by expanding broadband infrastructure and increasing internet access.

Varilla said the project focuses on enhancing connectivity in various areas, including remote and underserved communities, to promote digital inclusion and socioeconomic development.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.