By Ben O. de Vera, October 22, 2020; Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Despite prolonged COVID-19 quarantine measures, more than a million individuals had already taken the first step to acquiring national IDs, according to economic managers on Thursday (Oct. 22).

Citing a report by acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said step one of the registration process had drawn a total of 1,058,546 people as of Oct. 20.

Chua’s report showed that cumulative actual registrations exceeded the government’s Oct. 20 target of 711,533 by 148.8 percent.

The first step of registration for the Philippine identification system (PhilSys) — ongoing from Oct. 12 to Dec. 30 this year — involved collecting demographic data and then scheduling an appointment for the capture of biometric information.

The demographic information being collected at the moment included full name, sex, date and place of birth, blood type, permanent and present address and citizenship (Filipino or resident alien).

This first of three steps to register for the national ID targets at least 9 million Filipinos—5 million household heads and other adult household members—in 32 provinces which not only hosted most of the 40 percent poorest families in the country but also had low coronavirus infections.

The 32 provinces were Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Tarlac, Bulacan, Bataan, Cavite, Batangas, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Rizal, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Albay, Masbate, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Compostela Valley and Tawi-Tawi.

According to Chua’s report, 28 of the 32 provinces were “on track for registration.”

This meant registrations as of Oct. 20 already accounted for 10.7 percent of the three-month process’ total target.

Among those already registered, 89.5 percent had mobile numbers, while 87.5 percent were unbanked, Chua’s report read.

To date, the bigger share, or 572,977, of those registered were males. In terms of age, the bracket of Filipinos between 20 and 39 years old cornered the largest number of ID-registered individuals at 420,264.

After they secured an appointment, ID applicants will have to next visit PhilSys registration centers for the second step of biometrics capture –front-facing photograph, fingerprints and iris scan–from Nov. 25 to Dec. 30.

The third step will be the issuance of a PhilSys number and the actual ID starting in 2021.

National Statistician Claire Dennis S. Mapa had explained that the registration process was spread out in three steps to facilitate social distancing and observance of minimum health and safety protocols for COVID-19.

Registration in Metro Manila and all the other provinces not covered this year will also start in 2021.

One of President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders to Chua, when he replaced Ernesto M. Pernia as head of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) last April, was to speed-up the rollout of the national ID system.

The government wanted to give priority to heads of poor families so their national IDs would later serve as valid proof of identity when it’s time to distribute social assistance. It would be a stable and systematic system which the country lacked when dole outs were given away to poor households at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The national ID system was also aimed at setting in place financial inclusion with more Filipinos being able to open bank accounts.