April 13, 2021

The Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) or the national ID program is instrumental for the country’s human capital development amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“The Philippine government is looking forward to implementing three use cases for PhilSys in the immediate term: first, ensuring efficient and effective distribution of emergency subsidies; second, strengthening financial inclusion; third, facilitating efficient vaccine distribution for the general population,” Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said during the Human Capital Ministerial Conclave organized by the World Bank on April 5, 2021.

Speaking among fellow finance and planning ministers of countries participating in the global Human Capital Project, the NEDA chief highlighted that the Philippines has a history of turning crisis into opportunity to do 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. 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,” Chua said.

The NEDA chief explained that the government has established a three-step registration process to safely rollout PhilSys amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and meet social distancing requirements. From zero registrations last year, over 27 million individuals have been registered for step 1 or the demographic data collection; of which over 2.2 million individuals have completed their step 2 registration or biometrics capture, and more than 390,000 opened bank accounts on-site as of April 2021. Step 3, or the issuance of PhilSys Numbers (PSNs) and PhilIDs, will begin this month.

“At the height of the quarantine last year, the government had zero registrations for the national ID. At the same time, the government provided the largest-ever emergency subsidy to the poorest 18 million families or the bottom 75 percent. However, only 22 percent of beneficiaries had bank accounts which led to delays in the payouts,” Chua added.

Moreover, based on the 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 51.2 million Filipinos or 71 percent of the total adult population do not have a bank account. The same survey found that the lack of documentary requirements contributes to the factors why most Filipinos remain unbanked.

“Providing each household with a national ID will allow them to open a bank account and access government subsidy programs efficiently. We also envision PhilSys to spark widespread use of electronic payments which can provide more and better opportunities for people, especially the poor and underserved, to access services,” he said.

Chua added that the government is also working on the PhilSys registry to support the efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for the general population by linking existing registries to PSNs for authentication. PhilSys may also help seamlessly implement digital vaccine credentials in the future.

“We have seen how having a national ID system benefits other countries. We are truly excited to register the majority of our population, and eventually implement the use cases to benefit our people,” Chua emphasized.