The country is embracing digitization better.

Thanks to Starlink, the most advanced Internet technology yet, now being employed more widely in the Philippines across the sectors of education, health and enterprises.

Credits to Senator Loren Legarda who brought in Starlink-level Internet to far-flung areas.

This was achieved by pouring in incremental funding to the Department of Information and Communications Technology in the General Appropriations Act for 2023.

“About 450 Wi-Fi sites provided by Starlink was poured into Antique, the first province. The old provider is already obsolete because it uses fiber connection or cable wires, unlike Starlink, a satellite technology that can reach the mountains,” she said.

“Also, I made the budget amendments of the DICT to also help DepEd public schools in terms of good connectivity. Next year, I will make it a point to include rural health centers and barangay health stations to have a better and faster connectivity. How can nurses research information if their connectivity is poor?” Legarda said.

She said that even micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as indigenous tribes in remote areas, would benefit from the move.

Boon to seafarers

Just last month, college students from the University of Antique, aspiring to become seafarers someday, were given the opportunity to explore vessels as Legarda launched the Maritime Education 4.0 Program at the said state-owned university. This initiative provided an initial funding of P10 million for a Virtual and Augmented Reality simulator and a dedicated Maritime Learning Management System.

Legarda was in Antique to launch various funded projects, including maritime programs at the local university, and committed to advocating for additional projects in the legislative branch in the coming years.

The maritime ARVR and LMS project, a component of the broader Maritime Education 4.0 initiative, seeks to revolutionize UA Maritime’s curriculum, training methodologies and infrastructure. It aims to prepare students for the challenges of the modern maritime sector, particularly addressing the demands of Industrial Revolution 4.0. This includes digitalization, automation, robotics and maritime cybersecurity within the shipping industry.

The centerpiece of the initiative is the Augmented and Virtual Laboratory, a groundbreaking facility equipped with advanced simulators and interactive modules designed to simulate real-world maritime scenarios.

From navigation exercises to engine room operations, students can gain practical skills in a risk-free virtual environment, enhancing their readiness for onboard duties.

Furthermore, the implementation of the LMS offers students access to a comprehensive digital platform for coursework, assessments and collaborative learning. With features such as online lectures, interactive tutorials and virtual discussions, the LMS fosters a flexible learning environment tailored to the needs of the College of Maritime. 

Care for SUCs

“I care for the SUCs (State Universities and Colleges) a lot, not only in Antique but all over the country,” Legarda said. “Maybe we can start the same endeavor next year in Marinduque, maybe in Mogpog. There will be no problem with the maintenance (of the sites) as it is encapsulated in the budget. We can start it next year and I will also allocate another budget under the GAA (General Appropriations Act) for that.”

Also, the lawmaker emphasized her plans to establish municipal libraries in collaboration with the Starlink Internet provider. She also revealed that in Oriental Mindoro, she has facilitated the development of large markets, particularly in Pinamalayan, Roxas and Mansalay.

Tatak Pinoy Act

As the co-author of the Tatak Pinoy Act, a law signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. last March to support local industries and associate Filipino brands with high-quality products, Legarda said that she has already begun making strides in reviving the textile industry by reviving the cotton industry.

“In Patnongon Antique, I built a cotton processing center where we plant cotton, harvest it and process it with machines. The Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) under the Department of Agriculture was the one assigned to it,” she said.

PhilFIDA is mandated to promote the growth and development of the Philippine Fiber Industry through research and development, production support, fiber utilization, standards implementation and trade regulation.

Legarda emphasized the importance of cultivating the specific plants required for different types of fibers or textiles. For instance, she highlighted that to produce piña fiber, red Spanish pineapples, which grow in Antique and Aklan, should be planted.

Recently, the Aklan fiber was inscribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity that should be safeguarded because of its importance.

“That is why I am helping them to provide equipment, training and centers in the barangays that are producing Spanish pineapple. It is important to plant cotton and Spanish pineapple to support the garment industry. I am a lawmaker but I go beyond legislation and I want to make sure that laws are being implemented,” she said.

Legarda also plans to put the same fiber centers in Sarangani, Zamboanga and Pinili, Ilocos Norte, the hometown of Magdalena Gamayo, the 100-year-old master weaver and a recipient of Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan for the artisans.

She said the government even had a Cotton Development Industry, but it was abolished, which is why the country continues to export cotton to other countries.

Seasoned lawmaker

Besides all of these strides, Senator Legarda is also a staunch advocate of climate change and environmental awareness; a champion for the promotion of Philippine culture and the arts; an advocate for strengthening bilateral relations between nations; an Iskolar ng Bayan; and a military reservist.

Legarda is a four-term senator who has many legislative accomplishments to improve the lives of Filipinos, particularly in the areas of environmental protection, climate change mitigation, cultural preservation and other measures aimed at promoting inclusive and sustainable development.

A public servant for more than two decades, Legarda is notable for being the only female to top two senatorial elections, in 1998 and 2007.

Additionally, she holds the distinction of being the only female Majority Leader to have served in the Philippine Senate.

She is currently the Senate president pro tempore; chairperson of the Senate Committee on Culture and the Arts; chairperson of the Senate Special Oversight Committee on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement; chairperson of the Senate Panel to the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum; and chairperson of the Special Committee on the Rehabilitation of the Manila Central Post Office.

She also served as a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, representing the lone district of the Province of Antique, and notably the sole Antiqueña who served as deputy speaker of the House.

Aside from being the youngest elected Senator in 1998, she was a respected and multi-award-winning broadcast journalist with over 30 industry awards. These include the Ten Outstanding Young Men Award in 1992, The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service Award in 1995 and the Benigno Aquino Award for Journalism in 1995, among others.