The Philippines should initiate diplomatic talks with China so that the two countries can “jointly abrogate” Manila’s highly contentious $329-million national broadband network (NBN) project that would be installed by Shenzen-based ZTE Corp. using a soft loan from Beijing, Sen. Loren Legarda said.
“The project has become too tainted — too quarrelsome — it is no longer tenable,” Legarda said.
“The Philippines should persuade China that the rescission of the deal is in the best interest of both countries. And that a mutual annulment is definitely much better than a unilateral cancellation by the Philippines,” Legarda said.
Once the project is diplomatically terminated, Legarda said a joint congressional commission of the Senate and the House should ascertain whether the country needs a state-owned broadband network, on top of existing high-speed commercial communication channels run by the private sector.
While looking into the need for the proposed NBN, Legarda said the commission might as well determine the suitability and feasibility of a “cyber education program” that aims to reinforce the public school system by using satellite technology to beam televised lectures to students and teachers.
Legarda said the bicameral commission can then draw up a report, to be approved by the Senate and the House in plenary, and then endorsed to Malacañang.
Legarda made the statement shortly after Malacañang “suspended” the NBN project and the $465-million cyber education project, also to be funded by a loan from China, without categorically saying whether both ventures would eventually be revived or terminated.
The senator expressed confidence that the NBN deal’s revocation would not impair Philippine-China relations in a big way.
“Philippine-China relations are far greater than the twin projects. The combined value of the projects is nothing much when compared to our larger political, economic and people-to-people relations with China,” Legarda stressed.
“Going forward, there will be numerous other occasions for China to help us some other way, and for us to help China — for the two countries to cooperate — with respect to information and communications technology (ICT) projects, or in other areas,” Legarda pointed out.
Legarda is author of a bill seeking to establish a new, full-fledged department that would “consciously advance” the country’s ICT sector, as well as several measures proposing to build up electronic commerce while bracing the war on cybercrime.