The government could tap the private sector to speed up registration for the Philippine identification system (PhilSys), which President Rodrigo Duterte had listed as one of his priority orders to his new socioeconomic planning chief, Karl Kendrick T. Chua.

Chua told members of Makati Business Club (MBC) on Tuesday (June 23) that the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) seeks to register by November five million heads of low-income household for the national ID program.

Chua said the government had sufficient budget to roll out PhilSys, but actual expenses were expected to be higher than programmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now, our immediate challenge is really how to proceed with a mass registration without it being the venue to transmit or spread the virus,” Chua said.

“This will entail a bit more cost because normally you would assemble maybe a thousand people per day to go through the registration but that will violate the minimum health standard,” said Chua, who also chairs the Philsys Policy and Coordination Council as head of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

He said the registration process would be more tedious because of COVID-19. “Every time someone puts the finger and the eye on a scanner we would have to clean them one by one and buy PPE,” he said, referring to personal protective equipment.

Implementors of PhilSys, he said, are now in search of ways to fully enforce the program “but at the same time meet the health standards.” “So that will entail a slightly higher budget and more effort on our part to make it as safe as possible,” Chua said.

The Neda chief said the private sector may be asked to help in PhilSys implementation.

He said he could present to the PSA a “two-track system” of registration.

“This is still an idea—it is not final,” he said.

“The original idea is for the government, through the PSA, to do the registration,” Chua said.

He added, though, that he was proposing to the PSA a “parallel track wherein we also engage the private sector so that we have two groups working together, complementing each other.”

He said a backup plan should be in place “in case one is slower or there are problems, especially around the virus.”

“It offers a way to benchmark and actually have both teams complete and deliver more efficiency,” Chua said.

He said PhilSys was “key to unlocking the Philippines’ digital economy” during the COVID-19 “new normal.”

“By the end of 2020, the aim of PhilSys is to jumpstart and contribute to the digital economy under the new normal through financial inclusion,” according to Chua.


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