The Department of Information and Communications Technology announced on Thursday that it owed at least P1.3 billion to telecommunications companies PLDT and Globe for its free public wifi project. DICT Secretary Ivan Uy and DICT Deputy Secretary Heherson Assidao make statements during DICT's 2023 budget use oversight hearing before the Assembly appropriations panel chaired by Ako-Bicol party-list Zaldy Co. The figures were released after lawmakers questioned why DICT has only used 5% of its 2023 budget so far. “For free public Wi-Fi, we owe less than P2 billion. For PLDT... we are still reconciling our records as they are demanding more than we have [on our records]. We are [still] clearing our starting balances [so it goes to about P1 billion [for PLDT]],” Assidao said. "It's close to P300 million to P500 million for the Globe," Assidao said. These amounts are above DICT's P1 billion 'undocumented liabilities' due to lack of contracts, Asiddao said. Paul Daza, Deputy Parliamentary Minority Leader of Northern Samar, urged DICT for failing to pay such dues despite a £2.5 billion project for free public Wi-Fi in 2023, and that such unpaid deliveries of the government's free public Wi-Fi He said he blocked fi-fi and national broadband projects. “This is why they have a hard time implementing these projects. No one bids for free public Wi-Fi because we don't have national broadband yet because they have huge debts to the telecom companies that provide the bandwidth ," Daza said. “[DICT] you have so much money that you have to pay them,” Daza added. Asiddao did not object to Daza's observations. “This is a fair statement and that is the dilemma we are in right now,” Asiddao added. DICT Chief Uy and Asiddao later said that telecommunications companies' recourse is to file a complaint with the Audit Commission . “These [debts] will need to be approved by the COA,” Uy said. "It's not on us to do that [submission of claims]," Asiddao added. Daza of Marikina City and Stella Quimbo, senior vice president of House appropriations, denied such a defense. “You expect [they to make a request]? This is unacceptable,” said Quimbo. "If you don't object, pay," Daza added. Asiddao responded by saying that DICT is slowly paying off its "clean debts" and that DBM will issue P1.5 billion for documented debts on the free public wireless network by the third quarter. “This [pay for telcos] is part of our program this year. We are paying MPs of Asiddao from the cash released from the DBM so we can pay for our deliveries by the third quarter of this year, he said. “Based on the cash program, £1.5 billion po for free public Wi-Fi will be released in the third quarter,” Asiddao added. Meanwhile, Globe Telecom said they are in talks with DICT regarding the outstanding amount. “We are in constant communication with DICT regarding the collection of these receivables,” Yolanda Crisanto, Globe Sustainability and Corporate Communications Officer, told GMA News Online. GMA News Online has also reached out to PLDT for comment, but has yet to respond as of time of publication. —VAL, GMA Integrated News