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Salalima cites ICT as 'fast becoming' country’s top dollar earner

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug.31 (PNA)--Information and Technology Secretary Rodolfo Salalima on Tuesday said the information and communication technology (ICT) industry is fast becoming the country’s top dollar earner and its capacity to generate jobs is projected to surpass the big dollar remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers (OWFs) to the Philippines.

Salalima said the fast growing ICT industry may be attributed to the emergence of hundreds of major players putting up businesses in various capital cities and towns across the country.

He said the “driving forces” of the industry are the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms, software developers, Internet service providers, telecommunication companies and educational institutions.

The BPO industry, which has registered USD19 billion in total revenue in the past year, is expected to grow this year.

According to Pinnacle Real Estate Consulting Services Inc., the BPO industry is expected to further grow this year with “revenues expected to hit USD25 billion.”

The Philippines remains the top destination of BPO firms given the support of educational centers, presence of infrastructure, cost competitiveness and adequate government support given to the industry.

Internet speed

Salalima however said one factor hindering the industry is the slow internet speed given by telecommunications providers to their subscribers.

Statistics indicate that the Philippines is among countries in the world that has a very poor internet service.

Facing the problem on “poor and slow internet speed and services,” Salalima said the Department of Information, Communication and Technology (DICT), which he heads, plans to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with various telecommunication companies to find ways to address the problem.

He said he is optimistic the problem on internet signals and speed will be settled or the government will look for other players who are interested to invest in the telecommunications business.

Salalima also plans to put up free WIFI services in all public places in towns and cities across the country.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte warned telecommunications firms operating in the country that could not give satisfactory service to “shape up” or else he would open the industry to other ICT players.

Salalima, a schoolmate of President Duterte at the San Beda College of Law, is a Bicolano who hails from Polangui, Albay.

He was chief legal counsel and senior advisor of Globe Telecoms Inc. and had served as senior vice president for corporate and regulatory affairs of Ayala Corp. where he was also managing director.

ICT in Albay

In Albay, the ICT industry is becoming a fast growing business with around 20 major players engaged in BPO and software development, data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Albay showed.

Providing support to the ICTs are seven telecommunication companies (telcos) that provide regular voice/call and GSM/SMS services in the province.

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communication, an international telecommunications standard for the transmission of voice and data between cell phones and other mobile devices while SMS is an acronym for Short Message Service or texting.

The seven telcos operating in Albay are PLDT Inc., Smart Communications, Globe Telecom Inc., Southern Telecommunications Co. or SOTELCO, Bicol Telephone amd Telegraph or BTTI and DCTV Cable Network and Broadband Services Inc., also known as DCTV.

As to Internet service providers in the province, they include Globalink, Bicol Web Inc., Digitelone, Globe Telecom Inc./Bayantel, DSL and DCTV.

The educational institutions that provide the BPOs with their manpower requirements are 50 private and one public tertiary schools in Albay. Bicol University, which has six campuses within and outside of Albay, is the public tertiary school being referred to.

Five of the these institutions are fully accredited with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) while the rest are mostly schools offering short-term technical courses, that are accredited by the Technical Skills Development Authority (TESDA), or have degree course offerings accredited by CHED.

Data from CHED and TESDA showed that in 2008, there were 22,754 graduates of various degree programs under CHED-accredited schools and universities while 25,863 were TESDA graduates.

“Of this number, only 7,268 graduated from ICT-related subjects,” said the same data from CHED and TESDA.

Rosemarie Rey, president of Albay ICT Association Inc., and head of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines, in an earlier interview, said “the province has a gold mine of talents which can bridge the ICT gap.”

Rey, who is owner of the Southern Luzon Technological College Foundation Inc., said there is a need to further improve the schools’ curricula that will be attuned to the needs of the industry.

“This way it can supply the industry with skilled and professional ICT specialists,” she said.

Hall of fame

Rey said the ICT industry in Albay is moving forward and having a bright future despite the challenges brought by natural calamities that befell the province.

She had previously stated that investors and ICT locators were discouraged to put up their business in Albay because of a wrong notion that the place is calamity-prone because of frequent typhoons, floods and volcanic eruption.

She said another concern that needs to be addressed are the “readiness, adequacy and reliability of infrastructure support facilities, especially the power requirements.”

Rey, however, said this perception changed after Albay and Legazpi City were given the “Gawad Kalasag” hall of fame award by the Department of Interior and Local Government for their Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) efforts and for constantly attaining the “zero casualty” goal during disaster operations.

Rey said the BPO industry is a job generation powerhouse with 5,000 to 8,000 employed in various BPO firms, including the home-based online servers.

She said a call center agent’s monthly salary ranges from PHP10,000 to PHP30,000.

Rey noted the feasibility of doing business in Albay as it is an accredited area of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

She said Albay also offers economical rentals in offices and buildings and the wage is lower than in the National Capital Region.

Rey said the local government also guarantees support by giving tax incentives.

She said that as tax incentives, the province and the city grant the investors with tax holidays for three to four years and also allow tax-free entry of importation.

Rey said with the support of local government units by way of incentives, she expects three to five new players to come in every year. (PNA)


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