By Macon Araneta

Sen. Sonny Angara said he expects the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to fulfill its target of registering all 90 million Filipinos for the Philippine Identification System ID (PhilSys ID) before President Rodrigo Duterte ends his term in 2022.

During the hearing on the proposed PHP11.17 billion budget of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and its attached agencies for 2021, Angara emphasized the need for the very important PhilSys ID registration to be completed at the soonest possible time.

Acting Socio-economic Planning Sec. Karl Kendrick Chua said that for this year, a total of five million Filipinos from low-income households would be registered for the PhilSys ID and another nine million would also be pre-registered.

Based on the PhilSys roadmap presented by NEDA, 42 million will be registered in 2022 and another 24 million in 2023 to complete the process.

Chua noted that PHP2 billion in funding for implementation of PhilSys ID registration, in compliance with Republic Act 11055, was provided in 2019 but this was not obligated until early this year.

The registration, to be conducted by the PSA, will start in the fourth quarter and should be in full swing by 2021. PSA is an attached agency of NEDA.

Angara, chairman of the Committee on Finance,  assured the Senate is more than willing to support this crucial program but NEDA has to set a finish line or a definite deadline for the completion of all the procedures involved.

“What is the finish line for NEDA on this? Provide us all the details because we want to separate the forest from the trees. We in Congress are willing to help you but we don’t want to see a bottomless pit,” Angara said.

Chua said NEDA has been requested to complete the registration of all 90 million Filipinos before the end of the Duterte administration and their timelines have been adjusted to reflect this deadline.

The PhilSys ID or more commonly known as the national ID, is a single national identification system for all Filipino citizens and resident aliens of the Philippines.

As a foundational ID, Chua explained that the PhilSys ID will be the single source or basis of a person’s identity and the unique number assigned to the individual will be reflected in all other functional IDs such as passports and drivers’ licenses.

Once the registration starts, the basic information and biometrics of the registrant will be taken and the PhilSys ID card will be delivered in the following months.

Chua said the priority after all 90 million Filipinos are registered is to provide bank accounts to those who do not own one at all.

Angara noted that many Filipinos still do not own bank accounts and one of the main reasons for this, apart from the absence of banking offices in parts of the country, is the difficulty in providing an acceptable proof of identity as required by banks in opening accounts.

“The PhilSys ID would make it easier for Filipinos to open bank accounts, as well as for other transactions, both government and private. This is in line with our push for cashless, paperless and digital transactions, which should be supported,” Angara said.

He recalled the difficulties faced in the distribution of financial assistance to Filipinos in need under Bayanihan 1 because of the absence of a reliable database to facilitate the identification of the beneficiaries.

Angara said the PhilSys ID would have gone a long way in ensuring all the target beneficiaries received their aid and on a timely manner.