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PhilSys digital identity registration system to be fast-tracked

Praised for potential to improve financial inclusion efforts, vaccine distribution
PhilSys digital identity registration system to be fast-tracked

The National Economic Development Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua has praised the new Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) for its potential in three digital identity-related areas of development, the Philippine News Agency reports.

Speaking during the recent Human Capital Ministerial Conclave organized by the World Bank, Chua specifically mentioned subsidy distribution, financial inclusion, and efficient vaccine distribution as benefits of the biometrics-backed national digital identity system.

The NEDA Secretary also defined the new system as a means to turn the crisis sparked by pandemic into a chance to embark on certain ‘long-standing reforms’.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed several institutional weaknesses, including the difficulty in identifying beneficiaries for social programs and the lack of bank accounts for the efficient distribution of subsidies,” he said. “Given this, the President gave the directive to accelerate the implementation of the PhilSys. We aim to register 50 to 70 million individuals by the end of the year.”

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) opened the second, biometrics-focused part of the registration process for PhilSys in January, followed by an online digital ID registration process last month.

PhilSys registration is ‘essential government service’

Lockdown restrictions caused by the pandemic have been fairly severe in the Philippines.

Amid the rollout of the PhilSys, however, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in the country has granted individuals the right to go out to enroll their biometric data and complete their digital identity registration.

The news was recently reported by the Philippine Canadian Inquirer, and comes shortly after IATF-EID declared registering at PhilSys is “an essential government service and in support of the vaccine deployment to the general population.”

Upon completion of citizens’ and residents’ registration, a PhilID will be issued to individuals, that will replace the majority of government-issued identification documents.

NEDA recalibrates COVID-19 response

Allowing citizens to go out to complete their digital identity registration is not the only change in government response planned by NEDA.

In fact, the government agency recently announced it is planning a recalibration of its pandemic response to better manage risks and fast-track solutions on contact tracing, and an upgrade of its PhilSys registration system to handle more sign-ups per minute, according to a separate report from the PNA.

The initial pilot of online digital identity registrations was marked by technical difficulties, which caused many users to experience issues during the registration process, PNA writes.

According to Chua, the website was designed to accommodate 16,000 simultaneous users per minute, but over 45,000 tried to register in the first minute, causing the system to malfunction.

PSA resolved the issues after some hours after the system went online, and Chua publicly apologized for the inconvenience they might have caused to citizens trying to register.

“Instead of shutting down the entire economy, we only close down the sectors or the areas with the higher risk and allow 98 per cent of the people with no COVID symptoms or risks to continue working,” Chua said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.

The Secretary also announced that NEDA has been collaborating with the Department of Health (DOH), and some local government units (LGUs), as well as data scientists from the Asian Institute of Management, to create an automated system to detect COVID-19 cases.

Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte has praised the recent start of online registration of PhilSys.

In his latest address to IATF-EID in Malacañang, President Rodrigo Duterte recognized Chua’ and the PSA’s efforts in promptly solving the technical issues with PhilSys, and praised the system as the ‘dream of every administrator in government.’

Duterte also highlighted how past administrations have attempted to implement some form of national ID systems in the past but failed due to opposition from democratic parties.

The President signed the Republic Act 11055 in 2018 to establish the new system and completed his own registration process in March.

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