SANTA ANA, Cagayan (August 11, 2023)—The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Now Group to expand the connectivity and information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP).
Secretary Katrina Ponce Enrile said 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.
On Aug. 3, 2023, the MoU was signed by CEZA, through Enrile, and Now Group, through its chairman, Mel Velarde.
Witnessing the signing were CEZA Deputy Administrator for Operations lawyer Marichelle de Guzman and Now Corp President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Andrews Abes.
Also present during the MoU signing were Now Telecoms Engineer Rene Rosales, CEZA Chief of Staff Carlos Miguel Hernandez, other CEZA and Now Group staff, and media representatives.
Abes said the event was 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.”
Congratulating Enrile for the initiative to make CEZA a springboard for a truly digital Philippines, Velarde said 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.
“Secretary Enrile is the first to lead and show other government officials to take the President’s words into action,” he added.
Enrile said she takes the President’s directives seriously and hopes to be able to comply with these directives within the President’s term.
“[We know that] initiatives like this reaffirm the positive trajectory of the Philippines’ digital revolution [and] 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 toward being a financial technology (fintech) hub,” she said.
CEZA said the MoU entails a nonexclusive arrangement for the development of telecommunications infrastructure and services in the area.
Enrile said CEZA welcomes all telecommunications companies that are interested and that it encourages redundancy to provide more options on how people and businesses prefer to connect and to ensure that the area would never be isolated.
“[We are] looking forward to a bright future with the continued collaboration with the private sector,” she added.
Velarde said Now Telecoms has an advantage as a telecoms developer.
“Now Telecoms company is identified by the American government whose network and standards are trusted by the latter to be aligned with their interests,” he also said.
As an investment promotion agency, CEZA said it has opened the CSEZFP to many industries and that the majority of the current CEZA-registered enterprises are Chinese companies.
Meanwhile, the Philippine government has identified two out of nine sites of the US-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites.
These are the Cagayan North International Airport or CNIA in Lal-lo town and the Camilo Oasis Naval Bases in Santa town, to be under CEZA’s jurisdiction.
Enrile said 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.
Thus, the CEZA and Now Group partnership through Now Telecoms, a US Government-identified partner, will not just supplement the operations in the CSEZFP and beyond, but will also help support EDCA’s goals, according to CEZA.
It said Now Group will be conducting technical studies that will be used as a baseline for the digital infrastructure system and design that will be presented to CEZA. LEANDER C. DOMINGO