Duterte wants to cut ties with foreign contractor in free Wi-Fi project due to slow rollout — Palace

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 3) — President Rodrigo Duterte no longer wants the involvement of a foreign contractor hired to set up free Wi-Fi sites nationwide, his spokesperson said Monday, citing the slow rollout of the project four years after it was approved.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government is “unhappy” with the contractor’s performance, as only around 10,000 of the supposed 120,000 sites have so far been deployed.

“Ang posisyon po talaga ng Presidente at ng DICT (Department of Information and Communication Technology) ay itigil na ‘yung involvement nitong foreign contractor na ito at ibalik na ‘yung pera na naibayad na sa kanila dahil pwede na pong ipagpatuloy ‘yan ng ating DICT,” Roque said in a briefing.

[Translation: The position of the President and the DICT is to stop the involvement of this foreign contractor and ask for a refund, because the project can be continued by the DICT.]

According to Roque, the foreign company was hired at a time when the DICT still had insufficient capacity to establish the Wi-Fi sites itself. The situation is different now, he said, adding the department was able to install 500% more sites in 2020 alone compared to the total number put up by the foreign contractor until 2019.

“Kinakailangan ang pangako natin libreng Wi-Fi sa lahat, dapat magkaroon pa rin ‘yan ng katuparan sa administrasyon ni Presidente Duterte, and we have one year to go,” he said.

[Translation: Our promise of free Wi-Fi for all should be fulfilled during President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, and we have one year to go.]

With the improved performance of the DICT, Roque said he has “confidence” that the government will be able to at least come close to the 120,000-target before Duterte’s term ends.

He added that the Palace supports lawmakers in both chambers of Congress who have expressed intention to probe the project’s implementation, especially amid allegations of smuggling, bribery and negligence.