Apparently, the newly approved Cybercrime Prevention Act should be the least of Filipino online users' problems.
Amid fears that the law threatens freedom of expression online, groups on Tuesday warned that proposed changes to an international treaty threaten to give governments greater control over the Internet.
The International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) are up for revamp in December and leaked documents show that some countries are seeking to "change the commercial model of the Internet," the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Information Technology Association of the Philippines (ITAP) said.
These changes include a rule which would require parties that send data over the Internet to pay for the transmission "similar to international telephone access that involves high rates," the groups noted.
"The regulations may hold profound and potentially hazardous implications for the future of the Internet and all its users," ITAP President Dondi Mapa said.
"One of the significant implications to SMEs (small and medium enterprises) is the increase of Internet access cost, as some of the proposals may require a system wherein users will pay more for traffic..." he added.
This may "stifle economic and social growth" in the Philippines, which has been cited as one the fastest-growing country in e-commerce, the groups said.
The treaty also threatens to "broaden the digital divide," ISOC Asia-Pacific Regional Manager Rajnesh Singh said.
"[S]ome Internet service providers might limit connections to countries with high termination fees, which may include the world’s poorer countries," he said.
Some content providers, Singh added, may also limit access to information to markets where they have a "feasible revenue base."
"This will disenfranchise the global Internet user community as, again, it's likely to be the developing countries who may not have access to such content..." Singh said.
The new rules may also "stifle innovation and slow down Internet growth," the groups said, stressing that the Internet thrives when it is "not constrained by state or market control."
Censorship and human rights abuses are also seen to arise from the new rules.
"This could take a variety of forms, from prohibiting certain IP addresses from being received inside a country to tracking users by IP addresses and blocking specific individuals from sending or receiving certain communications," the groups said.
Instead of imposing the new international agreement, groups said the government should "focus directly on developing a robust Internet ecosystem."
Such efforts should include the promition of network infrastructure, telecom liberalization and creating a policy environment to increase demand.
"The most important role of governments is acting as facilitators of the Internet... They should not think about regulation but facilitation first," Singh said.
Twelve people were killed in the Philippines on Saturday as troops clashed with a militant group blamed for the country's deadliest terror attacks, the military said.