THE Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said it began collecting biometric information for the national ID system on a small scale last week in Laguna, and will expand registration soon for the program, which is deemed a critical component of effective aid distribution.

In a statement Wednesday, the PSA said biometrics collection is the second step of the three-step process for the national ID, known formally as the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys).

It conducted the first biometrics collection in San Pablo City, servicing 218 registrants on Jan. 8-9. Collected were scans of fingers, eyes and faces. In the next few weeks, the PSA said it will set up more registration centers in Bataan, Zambales, Batangas, Cavite and Rizal.

By Monday next week, Jan. 18, PSA Undersecretary and National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa said in a text message that pre-registration — which is step one, the collection of demographic information, will be expanded nationwide, including cities and provinces with high COVID-19 case counts.

Initial registration for the national ID was delayed early last year due to the lockdown and quarantine restrictions. The PSA began step one in late 2020, pre-registering 10.5 million people in 32 priority cities and provinces chosen for their low infection rates.

“(The small-scale rollout) allows us to ensure our system’s functionality and security before a bigger deployment, and to put in place strict health and safety protocols at our registration centers,” he added.

Those who completed the first step of registration will be scheduled in batches to go to their assigned registration centers with supporting documents and appointment slips to proceed with the biometrics collection.

During the second step, the PSA said representatives from Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) to help registrants open bank accounts, helping meet some of the national ID’s other goals — expanding financial inclusion and enabling the direct deposit of cash aid.

“Our collaboration with PSA significantly advances… greater financial inclusion. Through LANDBANK accounts, we can reach and provide financial services and government support interventions to as many underserved and unbanked Filipinos nationwide,” LANDBANK President and CEO Cecilia C. Borromeo said in the same statement.

The third and final step of the registration process involves the issuance of the unique, PhilSys Number (PSN), one of the system’s key features, and the actual physical card, formally called the “PhilID.”

“The PSN is randomly generated and will serve as a permanent identification number for every registrant which can be used for digital transactions. PSA partnered with PHLPost for the delivery of the PSN and PhilID to successful registrants,” the PSA said.

The 32 priority, low-risk areas identified by the government are: Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Isabela, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon province, Rizal, Albay, Camarines Sur, Masbate, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo City, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Cebu City, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Compostella Valley, Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Occidental and Tawi-Tawi.

Republic Act No. 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act signed in August 2018 provides for a single identification system for all citizens and does away with the need to register for multiple government-issued IDs.

The PSA aims to register over 40 million people this year and more than 90 million by June 2022, when the government is due to step down. — Beatrice M. Laforga