Gov't to fast-track national ID system for coronavirus response

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government will be doubling its efforts to roll out the national ID system to aid in giving cash assistance amid the coronavirus lockdown.

In his first press briefing as acting director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Karl Chua said he is working with National Statistician Dennis Mapa to finish the procurement of equipment and items needed for the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys).

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) aims to implement the program by June or July, when the so-called "enhanced community quarantine" would already be relaxed or modified. (READ: National ID law: Here's the law, plus a quick summary)

The PSA aims to register 5 million people into PhilSys in 2020, but Chua said they will have to register families instead of individuals to hasten the process during the pandemic.

"That is one way to ensure that we can address some of the issues in the social amelioration [program] by giving them identity and some bank accounts," Chua said.

The national ID would contain basic information like a person's full name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, blood type, address, and citizenship. Marital status, mobile numbers, and email addresses are optional.

Biometric information will also be recorded, including a front-facing photograph, full set of fingerprints, and iris scan. Other identifiable features may be collected if necessary.

According to Republic Act No. 11055, the system aims to "eliminate the need to present other forms of identification when transacting with the government and private sector."

Former socioeconomic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia, in March 2018, said PhilSys "can open up opportunities especially for the poor and marginalized and will make public service delivery more efficient."

However, some experts and critics have cautioned that having a national ID system would bring about security and surveillance issues.

Chua assured Filipinos that NEDA has coordinated with the National Privacy Commission to secure stored data.

The implementation of the national ID system has faced several setbacks. Agencies initially targeted its launch as early as 2018.

The PSA had also aimed for all Filipinos to be enrolled in PhilSys by mid-2020.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is tasked to produce the IDs. –

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.