If a communication system is good enough for the protectors of the President, shouldn’t it also be good enough for the defenders of the citizens and the keepers of peace and order?
And what if the same system is generally accepted and employed in other advanced countries: doesn’t this make a very compelling reason for the country’s uniformed law-enforcement agency to use?
As a general rule, public safety and security forces must make up in technology what they lack in weaponry, vehicles, vessels, and aircraft.
Needless to say, the country’s finest deserves the world’s best.
But is this the reality?
The National Police recently released bidding notices for the procurement of Communications Equipment amounting to nearly 1.2 billion pesos. Split into two public bids worth approximately P360M and P820M respectively, these form part of PNP’s modernization project which aims to improve the agency’s capacity to respond efficiently during public protection and disaster relief operations.
Based on the tendered documents, the communications equipment standard that the PNP requires is called Digital Mobile Radio Standard -- a digital radio standard specified for business mobile radio users developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.
With the choice of a DMR standard, it appears that the PNP has downgraded its communications equipment requirement based on a historical review of the agency’s communications infrastructure:
• Up until 1994, and in preparation for the then APEC Conference attended by US President Clinton, the PNP studied various Public Safety Standards based platform and they chose the widely popular US-based APCO P16 (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Project 16) standards.
• Since then and up to 2010, the PNP has implemented 9 phases to complete the roll-out of the APCO P16 Public Safety Standards based mission critical communications infrastructure.
However, the APCO P16 has one flaw: it is a proprietary system from a well-known manufacturer which locked-in the PNP to their services for several years. This prevented PNP from utilizing other standards which have been developed with the advancement in microchips, computing, manufacturing and cloud technologies – standards which are more advanced, cost-effective and open.
• In 2015, the PNP noted these advancements and worked with various technology vendors to study and enhance their critical infrastructure design. With this, PNP approved the most advanced Public Safety Standards based platform -- through a Uniform and Equipment Standardization Board Resolution outlining the minimum specifications requirement for bidding.
In 2016, however, the PNP made another UESB resolution outlining the DMR standards, a step lower than the prior approved resolution. Being a digital radio standard specified for business mobile radio users, the DMR – even at its highest level -- is still far off from the regular functionalities of the more advanced technologies available today.
Global Benchmark: Unified Mission Critical Communications Infrastructure Existing public protection and disaster relief communications technologies are mostly based on two-way radio (analog and digital) communications. Its inherent push-to- talk feature allows for quick coordination between users of the same network. Each agency operates and maintains its own system.
Because of this, when a crisis situation arises where various agencies are involved, they cannot communicate with one another and cannot coordinate their efforts, resulting in inefficient delivery of services.