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PIA Press Release

Statement of the President: On broadband and cyber education projects

Malacanang, Manila, 25 September

We have suspended the national broadband and cyber education projects in response to political criticisms.

When we learned of alleged bribery attempt in connection with the broadband projects, we instructed that the matter be discreetly investigated. The results of the investigations were reported as uncorroborated.

We proceeded with the preliminary processes regarding the project because we need to keep our good relations with China, even as we consulted with their highest authorities about a possible deferment.

We announced the deferment as soon as they indicated that they will try to understand our predicament.

China is the fastest growing country in the region and the world. We see it rise as a significant opportunity for the Philippines.

Our overall relations with China have become more confident, mature, and comprehensive, punctuated with substantial and important projects aimed at deepening exchanges in a number of areas, including trade and official development assistance. China is currently our third largest trading partner with whom we have had a substantial trade surplus since 2002.

Our Framework Agreement on Expanding and Deepening Bilateral Economic and Trade Cooperation is expected to further enhance bilateral merchandise trade with China.

I am creating a special panel to oversee projects under the China official development assistance program.

The China Projects Oversight Panel shall be headed by Secretary Peter Favila as the overall coordinator of our Framework Agreement with China, with Secretary Rolando Andaya as the Chairman of the Government Procurement Policy Board, Secretary Cerge Remonde as Chairman of the Pro-Performance Group, a Church leader whom we shall invite, and a representative of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines as members.

Even as we defer the said China projects, this should not be construed as a precedent for every disgruntled project proponent and his backers to undermine undertakings that comply with the law and benefit the nation. All branches of government must ensure that vested interests do not exploit our democracy to block our development.

We also assure our hardworking, competent civil servants planning and doing the technical work that we appreciate their laudable work. Under our separation of powers, the Executive shall continue to invest in our land and our people, subject to budgets and laws enacted by Congress and rulings handed down by the courts.

In my inauguration address last 2004, I said: "Hangad kong makapasok sa eskuwela-ang-bawat bata, may sapat na lugar sa silid aralan at may computer sa bawat paaralan." Distance-learning is part of our ten-point program.

I also shared the vision that by 2010 the network digital infrastructure on which our government had embarked will have linked the entire country.

The suspension of the said projects has created a gap in these aspects of our ten-point agenda. Government telecom savings of P3 billion a year from broadband may not be forthcoming, slashing that much from funds for social services. And world-class ICT might no longer reach 4th to 6th class municipalities and the least endowed schools.

For this reason, I have asked Secretary Leandro Mendoza to discuss with private telecom companies how government can cut its phone, fax and online expenses, so we can spend more on programs and projects.

The state remains committed to making long-overdue investments in our country and our people. (OPS) [top]

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