By Beatrice M. Laforga, June 24, 2020; Business World

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is looking to work with the private sector to speed up the implementation of the national ID system.

NEDA Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said he proposed that the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) adopt a “two-track system on registration” of individuals in order to expedite the program’s implementation.

The PSA is the main implementing agency for the national ID system.

“What I’m working now with the PSA is to have a two-track system on registration, so this is still an idea, it is not final. But the original idea is for the government, through the PSA, to do the registration,” he said during the forum arranged by the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation and Makati Business Club, Inc.

Now, Mr. Chua is proposing the government and the private sector work together in registering Filipinos into the national system. He did not give additional details.

“I’m proposing to the PSA to consider a parallel track wherein we’ll also engage the private sector so that number one, we have two groups working together (and) complementing each other. Number two, we have a backup plan in case one is slower or there are problems especially around the virus,” Mr. Chua said.

Sought for comment, PSA Chief Claire Dennis S. Mapa said the proposal is being discussed with NEDA.

In the same forum, Roberto R. Romulo, chairman of the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, said having the private sector participate in national ID registration could fast-track the implementation.

“I would suggest perhaps that you should engage the private sector supporting you in this endeavor and maybe that can accelerate the process,” Mr. Romulo said.

Mr. Chua said the “immediate challenge” is how to swiftly conduct a large-scale registration, while meeting the minimum health standards to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working on how to operationalize the national ID registration but at the same time, meet the health standards. (This) will entail a slightly higher budget and more effort on our part to make it safe as possible,” he said.

According to Mr. Chua, the government targets to have the first five million household heads registered this year. Full-scale registration is scheduled to start in November, a month later than the initial October schedule.

Mr. Chua said bidding for four out of the five components of the procurement packages needed for the implementation of the national ID is ongoing. He said the last component is expected to be awarded in August.

“The next step once it is awarded, is to customize it for the Philippines. The schedule for the enrollment or registration of the first five million household heads is November,” he said.

The government is targeting to enroll “most” Filipinos in the national ID system before President Rodrigo R. Duterte steps down in end-June 2022.

The implementation of the national ID system is one of the reforms needed to boost the digital economy, according to Mr. Chua, on top of streamlining requirements, relaxing barriers to market entry, and passing key legislations such as amendments to the Public Service Act.

He said the Philippines is one of the top countries in terms of internet usage but adoption of digital technology lags behind peers.

For instance, Mr. Chua said the size of the country’s e-commerce retail market only accounts for 0.5% of ASEAN’s $35-billion total in 2015.