The Department of Information and Communications Technology – Luzon Cluster 3, through the Free Wi-Fi for All Program (FW4A), completed setting up 80 newly activated free Internet sites within 20 locations in the island provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro.

“It is this administration’s strong stand that Internet is a right. Access to data is a right – much like food, water, shelter, education, and healthcare, among others. Thus, it is the duty of the government to ensure that this right is afforded to every Filipino citizen—that every Filipino is connected to the Internet, regardless of where they are in the Philippines,” DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

Institutionalized through Republic Act No. 10929 or the “Free Internet Access in Public Places Act”, the DICT had been fast-tracking the rollout of the program in light of the pressing connectivity demands of the new normal. The launching of the Internet hotspots in Mindoro is expected to enhance accessibility to the Internet and to bring digital opportunities closer to the people therein.

“I hope that this will be the first step in forging a productive partnership as Wi-Fi connectivity is now considered as an essential need, more so in this challenging time of the pandemic crisis when quarantine measures compel our students to study through online learning and employees to work from home,” said Mayor Arnan C. Panaligan of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.

“In reopening the economy and when transacting business online becomes a compelling necessity, the Free Wi-Fi for All Program is an important step in the right direction in ensuring the people’s access to Wi-Fi connectivity,” Panaligan added.

Occidental Mindoro 2nd District Representative, Congressman Alfonso V. Umali, Jr. also noted how the program will benefit the community, particularly those sectors with limited access to opportunities provided by technology:

Sa ngayon, sa teknolohiya halos umiikot ang mundo ng mga makabagong Filipino, subalit, dahil sa hirap ng buhay, marami ang napagkakaitan ng pagkakataong maramdaman ang pag-unlad na dala ng makabagong teknolohiya. Kaya bahagi ng responsibilidad na nakaatang sa ating DICT ay ilapit ang teknolohiya sa ating mga kababayan, at natutuwa po ako sa programang Free Wi-Fi for All sapagkat nailalapit natin ang mga kababayan natin sa mga biyaya ng Internet na talaga namang kapaki -pakinabang sa lahat, lalo sa ating mga mag-aaral,” Umali, Jr. asserted.

[“Presently, the modern Filipino’s life revolves around technology, however, due to poverty and challenging circumstances, many of our countrymen are deprived of the opportunities provided by new technology. Thus, it is part of the mandate of the DICT to bring technology closer to our fellowmen, so I am glad that we are beneficiaries of the Free Wi-Fi for All Program because it allows the people, particularly our students, to access the Internet and limitless digital opportunities.”]

Government representatives and partners from the province of Occidental Mindoro also noted how the program is a welcome development for the community, especially for the education sector:

Ito po ay lubos na makakatulong sa mga mamamayan, lalong lalo na sa mga estudyante na walang access sa Internet. Sa programang ito ay mas mapapadali ang kanilang pag-aaral. Muli po, lubos ang aming pasasalamat,” Occidental Mindoro Governor Eduardo B. Gadiano stated.

[“This [program] will be helpful for our citizens, particularly our students with little or no access to Internet services. Through this program, we expect that their educational burdens will be eased. Again, we are thankful for the support.”]

Congresswoman Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato mirrored these sentiments, claiming that the launching of 40 new Free Wi-Fi sites will make the province stand on equal footing with the more advanced communities of the country:

“The launching of free Wi-Fi for All is an important milestone in our lives as it will even the proverbial playing field—our children, our schools, our hospitals and our people as a whole will have easy access to information, knowledge, and technology which were not available to us before. This will make us stand on equal footing with more advanced sectors of our society,” Ramirez-Sato asserted.

Secretary Honasan commended the dedication and efforts of the local government, as well as the DICT Luzon Cluster 3 headed by Director Cheryl Ortega in their effective implementation of the program. He called on the local government leaders to continue their productive partnerships to connect more Filipinos to the benefits of the digital economy:

“We hope that DICT and the Province of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro could sustain these partnerships in the future for the implementation of other ICT programs and initiatives aimed at empowering citizens amid and beyond this pandemic.”