THE Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is appealing to Congress to restore its P6.2 billion proposed budget for the implementation of the Philippine ID system (PhilSys) to ensure it hits its initial target of signing up 25 million Filipinos.
During the Senate budget hearing of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and its attached agencies, PSA National Statistician Lisa Grace S. Bersales said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) only approved P2 billion under the National Expenditure Program (NEP), which she estimates will fund the registration of 5-6 million Filipinos.
“If we would just have P2 billion next year, we will be able to enroll… five million to six million but the vision is 25 million to be enrolled next year,” Ms. Bersales said.
“We actually already wrote to Secretary (Benjamin E.) Diokno, Senator (Loren B.) Legarda and Representative (Karlo Alexei B.) Nograles requesting the additional P4.2 billion given to PSA in the GAA (General Appropriations Act), even if in the NEP, it’s just P2 billion,” she added.
Ms. Bersales said the agency plans to conduct a pilot registration run for one million unconditional cash transfer beneficiaries by the end of the year and to start the official registration by September next year.
She also said the National ID Council may approve and publish the implementing rules and regulation of the PhilSys this week.
Republic Act No. 1105 creates a central identification platform for all citizens and resident foreigners in the Philippines, which will incorporate data from all government agencies.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian told NEDA and PSA officials in the hearing that he will inquire with the Senate committee on finance on reinstating the P6.2 billion budget.
“I really think that a lot of our problems can be solved by this national ID especially when it comes to the delivery of social services. We have so many leakages in social services and this is actually one tool that can reduce the leakage and improve the targeting mechanism of the government. We’ll try to talk to the Finance committee and see if we can reinstate the budget,” he said.
Sought for comment, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, a vice chair of the Senate committee on finance who also pushed for the law, said in a text message, “We’re doing the math now and whatever shortfall there is will be compensated by restoring the required budget to accomplish the targeted number of registrants.”
Mr. Gatchalian also raised privacy concerns centering on the companies that will partner with PSA in implementing the program.
Ms. Bersales assured that PSA will ensure the security of information of the citizens. She maintained that the purpose of the Philsys registry was for identity and means of verification of identity only. — Camille A. Aguinaldo