Gatchalian asks Telcos to build cell sites in public schools

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday called on telecommunication companies to install cell sites in public schools to provide internet access to all of the country’s 42,000 barangays as demand for various online services increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Gatchalian said public schools provide viable spots for cell sites and that this move would help accelerate the installation of free wi-fi hotspots in the country’s public places to boost the capacity of schools to utilize the distance learning in emergencies.

“We hit two birds with one stone. Out of the almost 62,000 schools nationwide, merong 47,000 na public schools. Now, there are about 42 thousand barangays nationwide. So bawat barangay merong public school at kung pwede nating patayuan ng cell site at wifi-based station sa bawat public school, sagip na natin ang buong Pilipinas dahil buong barangay ay makakabitan natin ng cell site,” he said.

“Ang proposal natin sa telecommunication companies ay gamitin ang lupa ng ating mga public school,” he added.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, stressed that in the long run, these cell sites would save the country’s public schools billions of pesos to pay for internet connection.

He also emphasized that bridging the digital divide will help the country’s education system to innovate and ensure that no learner is left behind.

“Kung meron sana tayong sapat na imprastraktura, meron tayong internet, meron tayong mga gadgets, hindi magiging problema yung pagtuturo sa mga estudyante, lalo na ngayong kailangan nating mag-shift sa distance learning,” Gatchalian said.

Citing records from the Department of Education, the lawmaker said that 58% of elementary schools, 80% of junior high schools, and 72% of senior high schools are connected to the internet.

He also mentioned the mapping of public schools and cell site towers by Project BASS or Bandwidth and Signal Statistics which showed that 44% or 20,398 public schools were found to be located more than six kilometers away from the nearest cell site means they have either very poor or no access to the internet.

The ideal distance for a school to the closest cell site should not be more than three kilometers to get a good internet connection.

“Moving forward, kahit wala nang COVID-19, importante ring pagsikapan nating maabot ang bawat isang kabahayan gamit ang internet, at mabigyan natin ang mga bata ng kagamitan, mga gadgets, para magamit nila sa pag-aaral,” Gatchalian said.

The senator earlier filed Resolution No. 392 which seeks to review the implementation coverage of the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act and its effectivity in elementary and secondary public schools, Alternative Learning System Centers, and other community learning centers in the country.

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