THE GOVERNMENT should fast-track the roll out of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) to address problems in granting aid under the Emergency Subsidy Program amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, a senator said on Tuesday.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III made the call, noting that there may be a need to provide subsidy for up to three months.

“The problems being encountered in the social amelioration and problems of the database, perhaps now is the time, and my suggestion, to execute and enforce the National ID system,” Mr. Sotto told reporters in a video message Tuesday.

“It will resolve all the other problems as far as the database is concerned,” he added.

However, the pilot testing of PhilSys has been disrupted by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon and will only resume when the restrictions are lifted, according to National Statistician Clare Dennis S. Mapa.

The pilot testing, he said, already started in March for some areas in Luzon.

“The pilot testing started already but operations were suspended due to the ECQ,” he said in a text message to BusinessWorld.

Mr. Mapa said the PhilSys team will meet Wednesday to discuss the changes in their schedule due to the pandemic.

“The target regions for the March to June pilot schedule are NCR, Region 3 (Central Luzon), and CALABARZON (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon). We will resume operations on these areas as soon as possible,” he said.

The ECQ in Luzon, originally set until April 12, has been extended to April 30.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the law that covers COVID-19 measures, low income households are entitled to a P5,000–8,000 monthly subsidy for two months.

The Palace, in its March 30 report to Congress, said the Department of Finance and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are working to consolidate a database of beneficiaries.

“This amelioration program rolls out for two months and might extend to three. The National ID System has been there since over a year ago. Fastbreak nila (They should hasten it) otherwise hanggang (until) next month, magulo pa rin (it will still be chaotic),” he also said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority inked an agreement last October with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for the production of the ID cards.

The National ID project is provided under Republic Act No. 11055, the Philippine Identification System Act, enacted in August 2018.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman said the government can sustain its social amelioration packages to the vulnerable population during the lockdown extension given the “P300 billion relief” by the BSP.

“The government can sustain during the extended lockdown its social amelioration packages to vulnerable families, temporary wage benefits to displaced workers, financial assistance to those in the informal sector, and other forms of assistance to affected persons because the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has recently infused P300-billion to the national treasury,” Mr. Lagman said in a statement on Tuesday.

The BSP earlier purchased government securities from the Bureau of Treasury under a repurchase agreement in the amount of P300-billion with a maximum repayment period of six months to support the COVID-19 response measures.
Charmaine A. Tadalan, Luz Wendy T. Noble and Genshen L. Espedido