Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Telecoms open to allocating half of revenues to health, education

Instead of reducing the P1 text charge, telecommunication firms are willing to allocate half of their income from text messaging or P0.50 per text to health and education programs as investment in youth.

Sen. Richard Gordon said he was surprised to hear that Globe Telecom, Smart Communications and Sun Cellular executives were amenable to his idea when they discussed it during a Senate hearing.

He said keeping the P1 cost of text could make a lot of difference.

"I am against the removal of the P1-charge on text. There are 55 million Filipinos with cellphones today and with just one text message a day per cellphone user, that's P55 million. What we can do is leave half of every peso to telcos and they can live with that. But the other 50 cents, let's put it in a program called Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP)," Gordon said.

The program comes following a 50 percent cut on text rates in the next three months, which the telecommunications firms granted and President Arroyo announced last Monday.

Gordon said he was touched to hear the telcos' representatives state their desire to uplift the quality of education and health programs in the country.

"I did not expect it, I actually shed a tear when they said they were willing to set aside the 50 cents for the program on health and education," he said.

"Are you happy with the education of your children today? Are you happy with the quality of teaching today? Are their schools okay? Their books? Do they have computers? Do they eat on time in school? Based on that premise, I will ask you now, is it okay for you to pay P1 per text but provide your children public education that can be seen in America and other First World countries?" Gordon asked.

He said under his proposal, the P1 per text charge would remain for five years since half of the telcos' revenues would automatically go to HEAP.

Gordon's Senate Bill 2402 seeks to create the HEAP Corp., which will be a government corporation that will spearhead the rehabilitation and acceleration of education and health infrastructure in the country.

Under the HEAP, every commercial mobile service provider shall be required to remit to the HEAP fund half of its net revenue earnings arising from local text messages. Initial estimates place the amount to be generated at around P98.7 billion a year, which will be a fund separate from the budget allocated by government for public education.

These funds shall be earmarked for the construction of classrooms, computer and science laboratories, clean cafeterias and school facilities.

"I don't think our telcos are so hard hearted and so attached to their billions in profits that they won't see this as a direct way to lift millions of our people out of the cycle of poverty by providing them the best quality education possible," he said.

"By lifting people out of poverty, it is not unlikely that the telcos will also be assured of not only continued demand for their services but also a higher demand for higher value services," Gordon said. – Aurea Calica - PhilStar

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