For years, telecommunications have become a crucial aspect of peoples’ lives. It satisfies people’s basic needs from social communication, entertainment, and information dissemination. It became more relevant as the modern world shifted to digitalization. Eventually, families, businesses, and even government sectors began to rely on telecommunications.
With such a significant impact on society and its numerous industries, a particular body must oversee its operations, set standards, and start initiatives to further its development.
In the Philippines, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) supervises all telecommunication services, including radio stations, telephone systems, cable companies, satellite television providers, and internet services.
The NTC has four mandates that dictate its functions. The first is to regulate radio stations’ installation, operation, and maintenance for private and public use according to the Radio Control Law, Act No. 3846 (as amended). It also regulates and supervises the provision of public telecommunications services according to the Radio Control Law, Act No. 3846 (as amended and Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995, RA No. 7925).
Another mandate of the NTC is managing the radio spectrum under the Radio Control Law, Act No. 3846 (as amended and Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995, RA No. 7925). The regulatory agency is also responsible for regulating and supervising radio and television broadcast stations, cable television (CATV), and pay television (EO No. 546 and EO No. 205).
Simply, it aims to maintain a responsive regulatory environment for an effective telecommunications/ICT sector.
Due to the immense number of telecommunications and other encompassing industries under the NTC’s watch, it remains abuzz with projects and efficient actions to manage its contents or services and maintain quality standards.
Recently, the regulatory agency shifted its attention to protecting national security and interest. It ordered internet service providers to block several websites, including independent media, “found to be affiliated to and are supporting terrorist and terrorist organizations.”
NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba signed the order upon the request of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon. The NTC eventually ordered internet service providers in the country to block access to 26 websites “affiliated to and are supporting” designated terrorists and terrorist groups Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
However, the list also includes websites of progressive groups and independent media such as Bulatlat. The media outlet said the move “sets a dangerous precedent for independent journalism in the Philippines.”
The NTC also began taking action against scam messages prevalent in the country. While it’s still unknown how people’s numbers leaked to scammers, the NTC is now advising telecom companies to send text blasts to warn their customers against the messages and their possible consequences.
In 2021, one initiative the NTC kept pursuing until today revolves around gender and development. The regulatory agency began a campaign to end violence against women, ultimately creating a safe space for all.
Among its top priorities is raising awareness about the dangers and consequences of child pornography. In its 2021 accomplishment report, the NTC took necessary actions to fortify its presence in meetings, fora, and policy formations with the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP) and other related organizations.
The NTC also addressed the absence of a mechanism that directly deals with perpetrators and the trading process. It coordinated with the PNP, NBI, IACACP, and even the public to tackle platforms involved with recording and disseminating sensitive content. Together, they blocked 68 URLs and 10 other platforms to mitigate the spread of malicious media that endangers the welfare of children.
Since the NTC’s efforts fall under Gender and Development, the regulatory agency also highlighted the relevance of women through information, education, and communication materials on specific programs and services to promote gender equality.
NTC managed to improve 16 Gender and Development corners among their central and regional offices throughout the country.
During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the NTC assisted the Department of Education in securing the continuity of providing quality education amid the global health risk.
Recognizing freedom of information
Expressing one’s self has become prevalent in today’s society as people and other organizations discovered new avenues to convey their intentions. It also mandates government agencies and other related establishments to provide any necessary information to people requesting it.
It coincides with Executive Order No. 02 or the Executive Order on Freedom of Information (FOI), which aims to promote an open government by increasing the transparency of the executive branch and its agencies. It strengthens the right to information as enshrined by the constitution.
As a regulatory agency, the NTC shares the FOI requirement. The NTC regularly complies with the FOI mandate, thus receiving recognition for its efforts. In 2020, the NTC received the FOI Plaque of Recognition for being one of the top requested and performing agencies with more than 500 requests and 90 percent closed transactions in the eFOI portal.
The 2020 recognition marks the NTC’s third consecutive year of receiving such a prestigious award.
Besides earning the FOI’s recognition for their performance, the NTC also earned the 2020 Certificate of Compliance from the same organization for cooperating with the enhanced FOI requirements. The regulatory agency also won the certificate in 2019 and 2018.
This year, the NTC celebrates 48 years of upholding the standard for quality and accessible telecommunications in the country to uplift Filipinos’ lives. It continuously pursues its vision to become a world-class regulatory agency to meet the challenges of the digital world.
The late Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., through Executive Order No. 546, established the regulatory agency in July 1979. Presently, NTC works closely with DOST-ASTI and DICT to improve government processes, provide better services to citizens and businesses, and promote public participation.
As media, telecommunications, and other related services continue to dominate society, the NTC remains vigilant in addressing threatening issues the quality of services under their mandate to uphold the quality of content and utilities Filipinos receive.
With its prompt action, the NTC is closer to achieving its goal of becoming a world-class regulatory agency meeting the challenges of the digital world.