24 September 2007

On that NBN-CEP overlap

IN MY previous entry, in the second-to-the-last paragraph, I wondered

"...why Secretaries Lapus and Mendoza did not try to reconcile their respective programs...and come up with a unified initiative that will focus on distance education as another killer application that will justify the humungous financial requirements of the NBN."
If these two gentlemen did not, it appears from the minutes of the NEDA special Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC) meeting a week before President Arroyo approved the controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) project that their colleagues at least explored the possibility -- 44 of them in fact, according to the GMA news story that went online last Friday evening, before Arroyo suddenly suspended the contract the following day.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves presided over the meeting held on March 26, 2007 at the BSP Complex. It was attended by six Cabinet secretaries, four undersecretaries, a BSP director, and 33 other executive officials and staff personnel.

They included Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso III, who took the cudgels in explaining their project during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing last Friday. In fact, Paragraph No. 50 says:
Assistant Secretary Formoso confirmed that there is an overlap between the NBN and CEP projects, specifically with regards to the communication/transmission aspect, that the Department is trying to resolve. He added that the NBN is versatile enough to handle VOIP, e-governance and education applications, as well as election-related reporting.
Which makes the following entry in Manolo's liveblog all the more puzzling:
8:18: Cayetano asks why CyberEd is required at additional cost when there’s NBN. Formoso can’t answer.

M (Probably DOTC Secretary Mendoza): Sec. Lapuz will reply on that. (Italics mine)

Formoso and Cayetano discuss why CyberEd is needed when NBN can carry video also; Cayetano asks why Formoso has spent hours trying to convince the public to support NBN, when he hasn’t tried to explain to Sec. Lapus that he could save 25 billion by using NBN instead of setting up CyberEd.

Read through the minutes and you will find sanity, or a semblance of it, still pervading government decisionmaking process: serious questions still being asked about an initiative (the NBN), and its clear overlap with another previously approved one (the CEP), about the wisdom of entering an industry where services are already being provided by the private sector.

And you will also clearly see what UP economists Fabella and De Dios decried in their paper, which former NEDA director general and now Inquirer Business columnist Cielito Habito also criticized here and here: the undue influence exerted by "tied" Chinese money in our policymaking, on the pretext that "beggars cannot be choosers."

I think there is more to this clear NBN and CEP overlap than meets the eye: this insistence on a separate system for the public schools, and not the alleged negative impact on our children that he rues about here, is what Secretary Lapus should explain.

3 comments:

franklyspeaking said...

The first time I heard about this NBN was when Asec. Formoso admitted that the contract with ZTE was stolen. I didn't mind about the contract but took a hard look on the services it will offer. When it enumerated that the LGUs and every barangay will be connected and in the process the government will generate an annual savings on communications of about P4B, I began to doubt the propriety of the project. Haven't heard of an instance that the government was able to save as much in a single project especially so that it's not yet tested. It was pure drawing. And why can't the government just provide cellular phones to every barangay chairman to connect every barangay to the municipal hall? It's already existing in many localities. Why the need for a nationwide broadband network when local telecom companies can provide the service without harnessing the Chinese? These are simple facts that even a street sweeper who has a celphone understands.

Now, it became clear to us that it boils down to greed, katakawan sa pera of the powers that be. For if it is not, how come that the right procurement policy and bidding process was not properly observed?

The ABCDEFGZTE ring tone is now incessantly ringing. It did not need an NBN to reach every nook and corner of the country and around the world.In simple math, just for a 10% savings, in generating P4 billion savings, the government must be spending P40 billion. We must be really rich just pretending to be poor.

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