The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Now Group on August 03, 2023 to expand the connectivity and information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP). The MOU intends to formally establish an understanding between the two parties to design and develop a world-class Communications Critical Infrastructure that also provides unified connectivity, software systems and services in the CSEZFP.
The MOU was signed by CEZA, through its Administrator and Chief Executive Officer -Sec. Katrina Ponce Enrile, and Now Group, through its Chairman – Mr. Mel Velarde, with CEZA Deputy Administrator for Operations -Atty. Marichelle De Guzman and Now Corp President and Chief Executive Officer -Mr. Henry Andrews Abes as official witnesses.
In his welcome remarks, Mr. Abes conveyed that this activity is a historic event for CEZA and Now Group as it would build the most advanced 5G infrastructure in the Philippines, and, as a result, bring in more investments and locators.
Mr. Velarde supplemented this message and congratulated Sec. Enrile for the initiative to make CEZA a springboard for a truly digital Philippines. In an interview, he also added that the vision for a truly digital Philippines is one of the agendas raised by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. during his latest State of the Nation Address (SONA). She praised Sec. Enrile because she is the first to lead and show other government officials to take the President’s words into action.
In response, Sec. Enrile shared that she takes the President’s directive seriously and hopes to be able to comply with these directives within the President’s term. She added that initiatives like this reaffirm the positive trajectory of the Philippines’ digital revolution. She also shared that this undertaking surely complements the mandate of CEZA for tourism promotions and investment generation, especially in upholding its place as a gaming jurisdiction and in its endeavor towards being a financial technology (fintech) hub.
The understanding entails a non-exclusive arrangement for the development of telecommunications infrastructure and services in the area. Sec. Enrile noted that CEZA welcomes all telecommunications companies that are interested to come in, and, in fact, encourages redundancy to provide more options on how people and businesses prefer to connect and to ensure that the area would never be isolated. She relayed that she looks forward to a bright future with the continued collaboration with the private sector.
On another hand, Mr. Velarde claimed that Now Telecoms already has an advantage as a telecoms developer because it is a company already identified by the American government whose network and standards are trusted by the latter to be aligned with their interests.
It can be noted that CEZA rests at the center of a strategic importance. As an investment promotion agency, CEZA has opened the CSEZFP to many industries. Majority of the current CEZA registered enterprises are Chinese companies. Recently, the Philippine government has identified two out of nine sites of the US-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites, particularly the Cagayan North International Airport (CNIA) in Lal-lo and the Camilo Oasis Naval Bases, to be under CEZA’s jurisdiction.
This undertaking complements CEZA’s efforts to develop the CSEZFP as a critical hub of economic activity and technology progress, not just for Northern Luzon but for the entire country. The partnership of CEZA with Now Group, through Now Telecoms, which is a U.S. Government-identified partner, will not just supplement the operations in the CSEZFP and beyond, but will also help support EDCA’s goals.
To jumpstart the intended project, Now Group will be conducting technical studies, which will be used as a baseline for the digital infrastructure system and design that will be presented to CEZA later on. The undertaking will make available fixed wired, fixed wireless, terrestrial, satellite, and other delivery systems that will offer reliable, quality and secured broadband and other ICT services at the CSEZFP.
Also in the MOU signing were Now Telecoms -Eng’r. Rene Rosales, CEZA Chief of Staff -Mr. Carlos Miguel Hernandez, other CEZA and Now Group staff, and media representatives.