Seeking to provide a space for Philippine netizens to discuss issues on Internet governance and and assist with formulating a Philippine position for the 10th Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in João Pessoa, Brazil on November 10-13, the Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ICTO), with the assistance of the Internet Society – Philippines Chapter (ISOC-PH) and the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), drew participants from various sectors including government, the private sector, civil society, academe, and the technical community to a consultation on October 21, 2015 at Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

PHIGF for Printing4R

Since its inception following the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis in 2005, the UN’s annual Internet Governance Forum has been the primary forum for discussions on policy issues on Internet governance. The overarching theme for this year’s 10th IGF is “Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development”.

DOST-ICTO Director Tess Magno-Garcia, a member of the government delegation to the 10th IGF welcomed participants and encouraged all stakeholders to work together on Philippine policies that respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by the Internet, thereby enabling national development and moving towards realization of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Atty. Francis Euston Acero of Democracy.net.ph opened with a discussion on the proposed Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom and its relevance to the pursuit of basic human rights both online and offline. Mr. Winthrop Yu of the Internet Society ISOC-PH followed with an overview of global Internet governance, focusing on the role of technical organizations – how permission-less innovation, distributed and decentralized structures, as well as inclusive, bottom-up processes have allowed the Internet to dynamically evolve many of the technological advances that are drivers of 21st century progress. Mr. Yu also provided a brief introduction to the current ‘hot topic’ of global Internet Governance – the IANA stewardship transition.

The afternoon focused on the concrete realities of Philippine life online, as Atty. Jam Jacob of the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) provided a contextual backgrounder on Privacy in the Philippines and the Data Privacy Act, while Atty. Marnie Tonson of the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) followed with a similar backgrounder on Cybercrime and updates on RA 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Act. There ensued many questions and comments, as Attys. Jacob and Tonson engaged with the audience on several issues and examples relating to censorship, surveillance and privacy.

Jem Panganiban of the Women’s Legal Bureau raised the audience’s awareness of online violence against women, such as harassments, threats, and defamation. Related to the more general issue of cyberbullying, participants then discussed the fine line between preventing online abuse, as against safeguarding online expression. Ms. Panganiban also raised the issue of ISPs and their responsibilities in addressing abuse online, as Atty. Jam of FMA and Mr. Yu of ISOC-PH commented.

With current public outrage over slow and expensive Internet in the Philippines, LIRNEasia’s Ms. Grace Mirandilla-Santos recapped the research and observations that she had previously provided at Senate and NTC hearings, in tandem with Engr. Benjz Gerard Sevilla of DOST-ICT Office, they then posed in questions for the audience on addressing the digital divide, surveying possible remedial measures from the policy, regulatory and market perspectives. Mr. Bayani Lara from the Department of Science and Technology’s Advanced Science and Research Institute (DOST-ASTI) provided updates on the Philippine Open Internet Exchange (PhOpenIX) showing that traffic through the neutral exchange had recently boomed even without the full participation of the country’s major ISP.

Ms. Nica Dumlao, Internet Rights Program Manager from Foundation for Media Alternatives pointed out that it is imperative to have a dialogue space for Internet Governance in the country. The first ever multi-stakeholder forum on Internet Governance, Human Rights, and Development was conducted by FMA last March 23, 2015.

The organizers are setting their sights on more collaborative and multi-stakeholder consultations like this in the future where everyone’s ideas and opinions are equally valued. Following the consultation is the launch of the version 1.0 of the Philippine Declaration on Internet Rights and Principles on the 4th of November at the DOST-ICT Office. For more details about the upcoming event, visit this link as well as their Facebook page.