With many Filipinos severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has faced the daunting task of ensuring that every citizen can survive the day to day through financial and other forms of aid.
Yet, delivering financial aid to millions is a challenge, aggravated by the health and safety concerns brought about by face-to-face interactions. This responsibility falls on local government units (LGUs), who have found their respective innovative ways to give assistance to their constituents.
Solving this task is the topic of the second session of BusinessWorld Insights: A Three-part Online Forum Series presented by PayMaya and the USAID E-PESO Project, which tackled the theme, “Efficient Delivery of Government Aid Through Digital Disbursements”.
“With the emergence of this deadly pandemic, it became more apparent that the government holds a significant role in people’s lives,” Atty. Jeremiah B. Belgica, director general of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), said in his opening remarks for the session.
The digital disbursement of the government’s social amelioration program, he says, is about to start, which would certainly set the government’s aid program to be faster, more efficient, and more transparent for the people.
“Automation and digital transformation used to be the future. But due to this pandemic, these have become an urgent need of the present,” he added.
Jonathan Malaya, Undersecretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, noted that the country has been recognized as one of the early adopters of digital payments, with 64% of payments made by the government are digital in 2018. The pandemic only accelerated this shift, as the manual disbursement of government aid presents a multitude of challenges.
“The silver lining of the pandemic is that we are forced to push and normalize digitalization more than ever before,” he said.
“Online payments provides the convenience of doing transactions anytime, anywhere. Online payment can reduce red tape, and provides transparency through the easy tracking of funds.”
“The manual disbursement of the SAP is a massive waste of manpower and resources. There is also a potential of leakage, non-compliance, and misappropriation. From the perspective of the recipients, the process is time-consuming, prone to delays, and poses a risk of infection to COVID-19,” Vicente Catudio Jr., digital finance advisor for the USAID E-Peso Project, said.
Aurora Cruz-Ignacio, president and CEO of the Social Security System, added that digital platforms provided the means for SSS members to secure subsidies from the government. Over 150,000 subsidy payouts have so far been given through e-wallets.
Yet, the shift to digital has its hurdles. Gov. Dakila Cua, president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, said although there are leaps and bounds in the advancement of ICT innovation, the country still has a lot of gaps in digital infrastructure, especially when it comes to solving the issues we have on education.
Mr. Malaya pointed out that the bigger challenge of digitalization is the lack of manpower. LGUs need digital specialists to improve and maintain their digital infrastructure.
Manila City Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso said that the city has been aggressively adopting technology, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We desire efficiency. We want to digitize the disbursement of government financial aid, including additional aid for senior citizens and students, because of that desire,” he said.“The only way to eliminate government corruption is to eliminate human intervention in government transactions.”
PayMaya’s Marvin Santos said that they have been working with organizations and LGUs in helping disburse financial aid since 2016. The biggest challenges they encountered are issues regarding data and identity, which can be remedied by the proposed National ID System; and educating Filipinos about technology.
This is the reason why PayMaya launched the LGUs Embracing and Accelerating Digitalization (L.E.A.D.) Program, which aims to equip local governments with the right tools and skills to implement cashless ecosystems in their communities.For inquiries on how PayMaya can help LGUs in their digitalization journey through the L.E.A.D. program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This online event is supported by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Anti-Red Tape Authority, and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).