ICTO: PH didn’t sign ITU treaty as it might affect BPO industry

Even as majority of the countries approved an “Internet treaty” last week in Dubai, the Philippines chose not to sign the agreement due to a “confluence of factors”, one of which is its possible adverse effect to the local BPO sector.

This is according to Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) executive director Louis Casambre, who led the Philippine delegation to the World Conference on International Telecommunications organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The ITU is an agency under the United Nations in charge of the ICT industry.

Delegates attend the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai last week. Credit: ITU

About 2,000 delegates attended the event, which was held by the ITU to renegotiate the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), the global treaty forged in 1988 that governs the global interconnection and interoperability of ICT services.

In an interview, Casambre the Philippines voted against the treaty because a provision on “non-discriminatory access of countries to each other’s networks” could compromise the security and stability of BPO firms operating in the country.

By voting against it, the Philippines will not covered by the new pact. Thus, the 1988 ITR will remain effective in so far as Internet regulations are concerned.

The government official said that while the Internet treaty was indeed approved by majority of the members of the ITU, the biggest trading partners of the Philippines such as the US, the United Kingdom, and Japan did not also accede to the accord.

Other countries that did not sign the treaty were Canada, Sweden, Poland, Estonia, New Zealand, Kenya, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Lithuania, and Serbia.

He said the only problem that can be foreseen with the development is in the Asean, where all the members, except for the Philippines, voted to adopt the treaty.

“But, we have our own internal cooperation agreements with them (Asean nations),” Casambre said.

At the Dubai event, the Philippine contingent, in a position paper drafted by Casambre and read by National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) director Edgardo Cabarios said the treay “is significantly dissimilar to [the Philippine] position on several key principles.”

“…[W]e must at this point reserve the right to further consult with our stakeholders before we decide whether or not to sign this Treaty,” the delegation stated.

The ITU, for its part, said the treaty “sets out general principles for ensuring the free flow of information around the world. New provisions in the text place special emphasis on future efforts to assist developing countries, on promoting accessibility to persons with disabilities, and on asserting all people’s right to freedom of expression over ICT networks.”

“Other pioneering new provisions include a resolution to create a single, globally harmonized number for access to emergency services, new text mandating greater transparency in the prices set for mobile roaming, and new provisions to improve the energy efficiency of ICT networks and help combat e-waste,” it added.

Issues that provoked considerable debate at the conference included network security, unsolicited bulk content such as spam email, the definition of entities providing services under the terms of the treaty, and whether or not to include language on freedom of expression in the preamble text of the treaty.

The treaty was passed after the chairman of the conference, Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim of the United Arab emirates, broke a seeming deadlock on Thursday after discussions late into the night on Wednesday, Dec. 12, failed to make headway on the few remaining sticking points.

Coming back to the meeting on Thursday evening after a tense start to negotiations earlier that day, Al Ghanim presented a new “consolidated package” containing all agreed compromise texts that had been negotiated section by section over the past two weeks.

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