Mr. Agustin R. Bengzon
Undersecretary for Communications
Department of Transportation and Communications
Republic of the Philippines
Wednesday, 20 March 2002
On behalf of the Philippine delegation, I wish to express our
gratitude to the ITU and the Government of Turkey for making this WTDC
Conference possible. We also wish to thank you for giving us the opportunity to
share this message.
Today’s life has become faster, automated, convenient and
mobile thanks to advancing technology and the Internet. These two factors have
brought change that is universal, making this world a borderless world. As a
result of this fledgling integration, the so-called "global village"
was born where people have begun to take a broader perspective of the new world.
The ICT sector is in the center of the changes that we are
now experiencing. Many of us have varied views and analyses of the current
situation and how to address the challenges posed by the prominence of ICT.
In the Philippines, HE President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has
stressed the importance of ICT in her administration’s economic development
program. In her address before the APEC Chief Executive Officers’ Summit in
Shanghai, she said her administration understands that it must act realistically
and strategically to meet the requirements of ICT. Her government would
initially concentrate on the following areas: building the physical
infrastructure, ensuring an appropriate policy and regulatory environment, and
the further development of human resources to close the digital divide.
The Philippines shares the view that much has transpired
since the inception of the WTDC. Consider the following milestones to underscore
The 1994 WTDC yielded the Buenos Aires Action Plan that
aimed to achieve a "balanced development of telecommunications
worldwide." The major problem then was to address the disparity in
telecommunications development in a world divided into what was formerly
described as between the "haves and the have nots."
The 1998 WTDC sought to give more concrete results to the
Buenos Aires Action Plan when it met in Valetta, Malta to, among others,
review the status of its implementation, establish the Global Information
Society, and ultimately led to the adoption of the Valetta Action Plan.
In turn, the 2002 WTDC will "establish work programs
and guidelines, define ICT development questions and priorities" that
shall lead to the "next development cycle", among others.
Significant accomplishments have been made over the years.
But like all developing economies, there are issues such as the decades-old
issue of the gap between the "haves and have nots" that we, as a
country and as a global community, still need to resolve. Unfortunately, things
seem to take a turn for the worse. It became apparent during the discussions of
the 1998 WTDC regarding the Global Information Society that there arose another
deeper division of the world, and far more acute than the dichotomy of the world
into the "haves and the have nots." This new kind of disparity later
became known as the world of the "information rich and the information
poor", a demarcation that seems to grow larger with new technological
breakthroughs and the introduction of global trade in telecommunications.
By the turn of the new millennium, the issues of lack of
universal access and the information gap metamorphosed further into a new schism
of a greater magnitude. It is called the "Digital Divide" which
shows a higher form of polarization of countries and its peoples. The world is
now halved between those with the capability or the readiness to participate in
the global knowledge economy, on one hand, and on the other side of the Digital
Divide are those with no infrastructure capability and general readiness to
accommodate high-tech driven growth. The Philippine government looks seriously
at this Conference to seek directions on how to address this gap.
This historical perspective, of the last eight years,
presents how the stark contrast between past and present has reached
evolutionary scale. The changes are immense in terms of the perils posed by the
Digital Divide. Under such an atmosphere, participants of the WTDC must decide
how it must respond if it is to cope with its extreme effects. It is from this
viewpoint, that the Philippines supports the efforts of the BDT to gather a
consensus within the WTDC for the adoption of an action plan that shall be more
responsive to the interests of all Members of the ITU, particularly those from
developing economies in bridging the Digital Divide.
Towards this end, the Philippines, for its part, has
consistently participated in endeavors in close collaboration with the ITU in
bridging the Digital Divide. For the record, the Philippines has served to
represent the policy aspirations of developing economies in many capacities
including the occasion when the Philippines was honored by its election to chair
the 2000 ITU Council Meeting. Aside from its active involvement in consultations
for the formation of common Asia-Pacific regional positions for submission to
the 2002 WTDC, the Philippines is exerting efforts to introduce reforms in its
Administration to counter the adverse effects of the Digital Divide.
The Philippines has completed its draft convergence policy
courtesy of a technical assistance provided by the ITU Asia-Pacific Regional
Office. The draft convergence policy is currently undergoing legislative
consideration. Once passed into law, the convergence policy is expected to not
only mitigate the Digital Divide through more investments into the ICT industry,
but will also contribute to universal access and enable the restructuring of the
whole ICT sector to adapt with worldwide convergence trends. In this manner, the
convergence policy may serve as a model for other developing Administrations to
consider. Furthermore, the Philippine Administration is finalizing its program
with the ITU to conduct a policy and regulatory course this year in connection
with HE Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s thrust on ICT and human resource
The support the Philippines has received from the ITU proves
that developing economies have a lot to be hopeful for in bringing them in step
with the global information society.
I, therefore, urge fellow delegates not to overlook the
window of opportunity that this Conference will be opening to all ITU members.
Let us all work together and seek collaborative efforts to address the digital
divide and to identify opportunities beneficial to all Members.