"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Friday, August 01, 2008

50 cents per text to health and 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

"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.

The Philippine Star
'Telecoms open to allocating half of revenues to health, education'
By Aurelia Calica
Friday, August 1, 2008