August 16-31, 2021

The Digital Rights Roundup, published by the Foundation for Media Alternatives, contains regular updates on what Filipinos need to know about their digital rights.

DICT credits ‘impressive’ growth in internet speed to common tower policy

On Thursday, the Department of Information and Communications Technology commended the country’s “impressive” increase in internet speed in the previous year. The Philippines has an average download speed of 71.17 megabits per second (Mbps) for fixed broadband and 33.69 Mbps for mobile Internet in July 2021, according to data from internet speed monitoring firm Ookla, according to the DICT. Read more here.

Google, Facebook team up for Apricot subsea cable system

Google and Facebook are teaming up to build a new undersea cable system that will enhance the Asia-Pacific region’s internet capacity and speeds. The subsea cable, named Apricot, will link Singapore, Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia, and is projected to be operational by 2024. Apricot was one of Google’s 18 subsea investments, according to the company’s statement. Read more here

COA Flags DICT Over P5.78-Billion Unspent Budget For 2020

The Commission on Audit (COA) has reprimanded the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for failing to spend P5.78 billion of its 2020 budget, including P2.94 billion designated for major initiatives targeted at boosting internet connection in the country. Read more here

BSP to stop accepting digital bank applications starting Aug. 31

Starting August 31, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has decided to close the window for new digital bank applications, including converting banks. According to a report by the Philippine News Agency, BSP governor Benjamin E. Diokno said that if the conditions justify it, applications for digital banking licenses will be resumed after three years. Read more here

House panel begins deliberations on bill regulating e-wallets

House Bill 9615, which intends to regulate the use of e-wallets and prohibit their use for any illicit conduct, was fine-tuned by the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries on Tuesday, Aug. 17. Rep. Junie Cua, the committee chair and Quirino representative, stated in the bill’s explanatory note that while the banking industry implements its digitization plans, criminals continue to inflict harm by inventing new and inventive ways to fool bank customers. Read more here.

Socmed creators seek dialog with BIR on tax plan

The Creator and Influencer Council of the Philippines (CICP), a group of social media content creators that includes bloggers and video bloggers, has said it is willing to talk to the Bureau of Internal Revenue about a memorandum the tax agency issued reminding social media influencers of their tax obligations. In a statement issued Friday, CICP commended the BIR for issuing the circular, saying it provided a comprehensive review of all tax rules and regulations that apply to its members. Read more here

Human rights alliance ‘Karapatan’ under long lasting DDoS attack

The website of the major Philippine human rights coalition Karapatan has been under denial of service attack for the past three weeks. The attacks began on July 29, 2021, and are still going on. The attacks coincide with the one-year anniversary of human rights organizations and advocates throughout the world calling for President Rodrigo Duterte to be prosecuted for his crimes against the Filipino people through the online solidarity campaign #StopTheKillingsPH. The gathering also commemorates the one-year anniversary of the assassination of human rights activist Zara Alvarez, a member of Karapatan. Read more here

Senator: ChinaTel could be using Dito as ‘Trojan Horse’

Sen. Risa Hontiveros accused China Telecom of spying on the Philippines by utilizing Dito Telecommunity as a “Trojan Horse”. In a statement, the senator vowed to keep requesting that the National Security Council (NSC) undertake a security audit on Dito, the country’s third telecom player, to ensure that the country is safe from foreign threats. Read more here.

Senate resolution urges DICT to hasten dev’t of PH vaccine database

Sen. Leila M. de Lima has introduced a Senate Resolution requesting the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to expedite the creation of a national vaccine database of Covid-19 vaccines in the country as a standard method to verify proof of inoculation. Read more here

DepEd eyes digitizing learning materials despite connectivity challenges

An official from the Department of Education (DepEd) announced Thursday that the department plans to transition from printed self-learning modules (SLMs) to digital versions of the learning materials. This is because, due to the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 epidemic, remote learning will continue in schools across the country. Read more here

Internet access ‘main challenge’ for teachers in distance teaching in PH: study

According to a research released Tuesday by the National Research Council of the Philippines, the primary obstacles faced by teachers in distance teaching and learning during the COVID-19 crisis in the country are internet access and internet speed. The study indicated that over 90% of teachers use modules to conduct distant learning, according to Dr. Celina Sarmiento, associate member of the NRCP’s Governmental, Educational, and International Policies Division and a faculty member of the Philippine Normal University, who spoke to ABS-CBN News. Read more here

Gov’t, private sector urged to upgrade online education infra amid pandemic

To promote online learning, the national government and the business sector should work together to upgrade the country’s digital infrastructure and services. Orlando Oxales, the convenor of Telecom Tower Watch, emphasized the importance of improving the country’s digital education infrastructure, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when online learning is critical. Read more here.

Comelec seeks experts’ help vs. ‘techie’ vote buying

Concerns have been raised by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that politicians may utilize GCash, the country’s mobile wallet, to buy votes in the 2022 national and local elections. Read more here

Comelec: Delaying voter registration would cause other problems

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has rejected proposals to extend the voter registration process beyond September 30 because doing so would affect preparations for the May 9 elections. The extension was also rejected by a majority of the six-member commission because of “significant continuing apprehensions about the health and safety of the public and Comelec personnel,” according to Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez. Read more here

After finding ‘misstatements’, COA tells NPC to improve financial efficiency

The Commission on Audit (COA) has advised the National Privacy Commission (NPC) to enhance its financial and operational efficiency, as well as the accuracy of its financial accounts, in its most recent annual audit report. The COA made the recommendation after discovering “misstatements” in the NPC’s records relating to national government agencies, office supplies inventories, and furniture and fixtures for 2020. Read more here

Moves to retain telcos as public utility bucked

The country’s largest business groups have been vocal in their opposition to keeping the telecommunications industry as a public utility or subjecting it to minority foreign ownership, citing interest from SpaceX, Japan’s KDDI, and the Kobashi groups in entering the country, which could provide competition in a domestic industry dominated by Huawei. Read more here

AI processing seen as next BPO for PH

Following the rise of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in recent decades, artificial intelligence (AI) processing is predicted to be an emerging market for the Philippines. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez told President Rodrigo Duterte during Tuesday night’s Talk to the Nation that the government and private sector are working together to expand AI technology in the Philippines. Read more here

Concentrix PH launches nation’s first dedicated facility for work-at-home

Concentrix Corporation (NASDAQ: CNXC), the Philippines’ largest private employer and a leading global provider of customer experience (CX) solutions and technology, has launched the country’s first-ever facility devoted to Work-at-Home employees: the Concentrix Community Hub. Sun City Plaza in Imus, Cavite, is the location of the first branch. Another will be held in Bulacan in September, and more will be held in other cities in 2022. Read more here

‘Axie Infinity’ devs ‘look forward’ to working with gov’ts on play-to-earn games

Axie Infinity’s creators appear to wish to engage with governments to ensure that rules governing play-to-earn games are properly implemented. On Thursday evening, August 26, Axie Infinity’s developers, Sky Mavis, tweeted that they wished to collaborate with governments “on a path forward that encourages innovation and empowers gamers.” Read more here.

Filipino sex workers on OnlyFans must pay taxes – BIR

OnlyFans recently said that it would suspend efforts to remove all sexually explicit content on its platform, providing some relief to sex workers. Taxes, on the other hand, are a concern for Filipino sex workers. Bureau of Internal Revenue Deputy Commissioner Marissa Cabreros responded to Rappler’s questions by saying that sex workers selling videos on popular sites like OnlyFans must register with the BIR and pay taxes. Read more here

Jailing truth: Cyber attacks target dissent, anti-Duterte reports

In what has been dubbed the “month of killings,” a rights group in the Philippines wanted to remember those killed in the Duterte administration’s violent anti-drug campaign and crackdown on activists. Under a “system that wants us to tremble in terror and quiet,” Karapatan, a group that has been reviled by officials led by President Rodrigo Duterte himself, said it wanted to stand against the deaths and offer messages of “hope, solidarity, and defiance.” Read more here

POEA warns OFWs vs. dating apps scam

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has urged Filipinos seeking work in other countries to avoid job offers from unscrupulous persons who use online dating apps and websites to conduct unlawful recruitment. Read more here

Filipinos urged to be on guard vs fraud when banking online

According to the umbrella association of bank marketing professionals, Filipinos should take extra safeguards against online fraud and cybercrime even as they embrace digital transactions more due to the rampant coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the Philippine Bank Marketing Association launched the #FightFraudTogether information campaign to raise consumer knowledge and vigilance against the growing number of online scams. Read more here

Mobile malware threatens PH, SEA

According to the newest study from cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, mobile malware troubles enterprises in the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia (SEA) as the remote work setting continues to spread. Malicious software that infects mobile devices such as phones, tablets, and other smart devices is known as mobile malware. Read more here

Bankers back proposed law vs money muling, phishing

The banking community has stated that the proliferation of cybercrime, particularly with the increased digitalization of financial transactions as a result of the pandemic, has made it critical for Congress to pass the proposed Bank Account and E-Wallet Regulation Act to further protect the financial system. Read more here

NPC probes, orders takedown of four online lending apps due to data privacy issues

The National Privacy Commission has ordered the removal of four online lending apps that are being investigated for allegedly using borrowers’ personal data in an unlawful and “excessive” manner. The NPC announced on Wednesday that it had received a slew of complaints alleging that JuanHand, Lemon Loan, CashJeep, and Pesopop had acquired personal and sensitive data without their users’ free and informed agreement. Read more here

Lawmakers urged to pass laws against misinformation on COVID-19 vaccine

As the Philippines continues to combat a rise of COVID-19 infections that has stretched hospitals to breaking point, a medical practitioner urged lawmakers on Tuesday to pass a bill that will punish Filipinos peddling false vaccination information. Dr. Minguita Padilla, a member of the Vaccine Solidarity Movement, told Teleradyo that misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines caused numerous people to skip their first dosage against the disease. Read more here

Facebook said to consider forming an election commission

According to five people involved with the discussions, Facebook has approached academics and policy experts about forming a commission to advise it on worldwide election-related problems, a move that would allow the social network to delegate some of its political decision-making to an advisory body. Read more here

ID WATCH IS HERE!

Here is the second release of ID Watch, a monthly digest of news and updates about identification systems in the Philippines.

You may read and download the July 2021 issue here.

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The UP Internet Freedom Network (UP INTERNET) is an alliance of students and volunteers advocating for internet freedom. You may e-mail them at upinternet.org@protonmail.com for inquiries.

DOWNLOAD: On the regulation of e-wallets, missed budget allocation, and tax plans for online creators: The FMA Digital Rights Roundup (16-31 August 2021)

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