QUEZON, JUNE 27, 2006
 (STAR) By Erica Cortez - Catanauan’s Sangguniang Kabataan president Donald Comiso had long hoped for their town to have an Internet service provider that would link students like him to the World Wide Web.

Catanauan is a third-class municipality in the southernmost part of Quezon, and the nearest Internet café was three hours away in Lucena City.

So when Smart Communica-tions Inc. opened the Smart Click Internet Café in town, Comiso was among the first to try the service.

"Internet would be a big help for us," says Comiso, a nursing student. "We will no longer be limited to what’s taught to us inside our classrooms. The World Wide Web provides us with boundless resources for learning and various ways of communicating with the rest of the world."

Smart Click is actually the first-ever Internet café not only in Catanauan, but also in the entire Bondoc Peninsula.

"Smart Click will be a big help to our youth," says Catanauan Mayor Sebastian Serrano. "Children can now visit Smart Click and use the Internet to research for information they need for schoolwork. High school graduates can send their college applications online to universities all over the Philippines, saving time and money. Our college students who are already trained in basic computer applications can enhance their knowledge in IT now that we have an Internet connection," he adds.

Launched last June 5, Smart Click is located along Abella street in Barangay 9. Since it is the only Internet café in the Bondoc Peninsula, it will also serve the nearby municipalities of Mulanay, San Narciso, San Francisco, and San Andres.

"Smart aims to bring wireless broadband Internet services all over the country, especially in so-called uncharted territories, through Smart Click. The branch in Catanauan is the 18th nationwide since we began rollout last April 1. We plan to eventually open 1,000 branches," says Tina Mariano, Smart head for public access.

Smart Click is housed in a 40-foot air-conditioned container van with 15 rentable computers. It serves as a one-stop digital shop in places with limited or no provisions for high-speed Internet (up to 1MBps) and other related computer and desktop publishing services that include sending, printing and scanning of documents and photos, saving documents in CDs, among others.

Comiso says he can now go to Smart Click to work on the long-overdue SK section of Catanauan’s homepage,

"I can finally start working on it now that we have access to the Internet," he says. "I can also now just go to the Internet café to set up a handicrafts business. I can coordinate with suppliers and buyers through e-mail, chat, or webcam."

Aside from benefiting students, Serrano says that having the latest in wireless communications technology in town can help government officials like him serve his constituents better.

"Now it’s going to be much easier for our local government unit to e-mail our bidding transactions," says Serrano, referring to the procurement procedures of local governments.

"The law requires every local government to publish its bidding transactions online, and this used to be a little inconvenient for us because our municipality had no access to the Internet. Our information officer used to travel all the way to Lucena just to take care of this matter," he adds.

Serrano is also glad that they will be able to update the town’s homepage more often now that their municipality is connected to the Internet.

"I hope we can really develop our homepage and eventually make Catanauan known to more people all over the Philippines and the world," he says.

"I believe this is a big step for us Catanauanins because the Internet is the best way for a remote town like Catanauan to be linked to the rest of the world," he adds.

Directly facing the island-province of Marinduque, Catanauan is a coastal town alive with rich natural resources and extraordinary history. It is the center of trade in the Bondoc Peninsula, with copra, fishing, and farming as the main sources of livelihood. It has a population of about 65,000 and 11,283 households, according to the 2000 census.

"We are hoping that through Smart Click, the Internet will open many opportunities to the people of Catanauan," says Jonathan Huertas, sales manager of Smart’s public access department.

"Everyone in Catanauan has been so supportive of this project – the local government, the public safety people, and all the residents," he says.

Smart started the rollout of Click branches on April 1 in Ayala, Zamboanga and subsequently opened branches in Basco, Batanes; Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; Sta. Maria, Bulacan; Bantayan, Cebu; Dolores, Eastern Samar; Malolos, Bulacan; Bulan, Sorsogon; Barobo, Surigao del Sur; Balangiga, Eastern Samar; San Juan, Leyte; Tandag, Surigao del Sur; Concepcion, Tarlac; San Jose, Antique; Baler, Aurora; Virac, Catanduanes; and San Miguel, Bulacan.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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