Press Release
September 13, 2020

Bong Go emphasizes need to prioritize digitalization of public service delivery; renews call for passage of E-Governance bill

Senator and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance Christopher "Bong" Go emphasized to the country's economic managers the need to prioritize efforts to digitalize the government's financial management operations during a briefing conducted by the Development Budget Coordination Council on Thursday, September 10.

Go cited that in the budget message, the President directed the economic managers to speed up the digitalization of the entire financial management operations, such as the E-Gov Pay Facility, to digitalize government collections and disbursements.

"We need e-governance to provide our people with the services they need from the comfort of their homes or workplaces. Not only shall it enable our bureaucracy to better transition into the 'new normal' but it will also cut or minimize red tape and corruption," he explained.

Go added that this is in line with his proposed bill, Senate Bill No. 1738 or the E-Governance Act of 2020, which mandates the government to establish an integrated, interconnected, and inter-operable information and resource-sharing and communications network.

"As we prepare for the 'new normal', the transition to e-governance becomes crucial, particularly the digitalizing of government processes. E-governance will also reduce red tape, eliminate corruption, enhance transparency, provide safe and convenient delivery of services to the people and encourage citizen feedback and participation," said Go in previous statements.

Go also said during the hearing that he supports shifting priorities and realigning spending policies to focus on containing the spread and mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; funding the procurement or production of vaccines; restarting the economy to create jobs and attract investments in line with continuing efforts to alleviate to poverty.

"As we move forward, we need to make long-lasting plans not only for our recovery but also for our sustainable future," Go emphasized.

Secretary Carlos Dominguez III reported that the Department of Finance is "moving very quickly" to digitalize its processes, pointing out that the department had successfully distributed assistance to 99 per cent of its small business employee-beneficiaries through the Social Security System and Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Dominguez also disclosed the DOF had been working with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation since last October 2019 to ensure their reporting systems produce accurate data in line with efforts for PhilHealth's operations to be digitalized as well.

When asked for their proposed budget for 2021, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said a total of P21.4 billion had been allocated for next year's Medium-Term Information and Communications Technology Harmonization Initiative (MITHI) expenditures to harmonize the government's information and communication technologies (ICT) resources, programs and projects.

To aid in the shift to e-governance, P7.6 billion of the figure will be spent on the ICT requirements for telecommunications infrastructure, including provisions for the Department of Information and Communications Technology's Free Internet Wi-Fi Access Connectivity in Public Places Project, National Government Data Center, National Broadband Plan, and National Government Portal.

An additional P9.4 billion was allotted for the government's daily operational ICT expenses (e.g. maintenance), P1.9 billion for ICT support to finance inclusion, and P2.5 billion for other ICT expenses and the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys).

When Go inquired about PhilSys, also known as the National Identification System, status, National Economic Development Authority Secretary Karl Chua replied that four of five procurement items were ongoing or completed by the time of his appointment last April. The systems integrator, the last and largest of the five major procurements items, is set to be awarded within the week. He added that the government will use an open source modular identity platform developed in India to configure their systems.

The Philippine Statistics Authority, Chua continued, aims to register five million low-income household heads by the end of the year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a pre-registration scheme, involving house visits, will be implemented to gather the information of nine million households starting October 12.

NEDA expects to register a total of 40 million households into the system by 2021 while the remainder will be registered in 2022. The budget for the program amounts to a total of P30 billion, P4.1 billion of which is requested for the following year.

Earlier in August, Go issued a reminder to PSA to accelerate and ensure the successful implementation of the national ID system to avert any more fraudulent transactions and misrepresentations in the delivery of essential government services.

"The national ID system is long overdue. The ongoing pandemic exposed many gaps in the delivery of various services. The discrepancy in data would have been minimized if we had the national ID system fully functional," he said.

Go has repeatedly expressed his confidence in the potential of new technologies and trends in data processing to provide solutions to improve the delivery of public services, enhance administrative governance and reduce corruption and bureaucratic red tape.

"As I've said before, we need to carefully balance our economic and health objectives. By ensuring that government services remain operational by maximizing available technologies, we can help Filipinos easily adapt to the new normal, help our economy recover and mitigate the health risks," said Go.

Per Go, PhilSys will be an integral component in realizing the full benefits of the digitalization of government processes or e-governance. Last July 27, he filed the E-Governance Act of 2020 which seeks to use ICT as a means to deliver government services and information to the public anytime, anywhere, and on any platform or device.

The proposed bill will establish the Integrated Government Network, a digital and electronic platform, that will act as the primary means for sharing and communicating data, information, and resources across all of the government. It will also create various digital portals for the delivery of public services, an internal records management information system, and an information database

"We should adopt a more efficient, responsive and modern ways of transacting with our citizens. This will effectively make the government more in tune with the changing times," said Go.

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