A House leader on Friday has said the crisis spawned by the 2019 novel coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) has underscored the importance of putting in place a national identification (ID) system to easily pinpoint the target beneficiaries of an emergency subsidy package such as the one the government will soon roll out for the 18 million poor and low-income families hardest hit by the pandemic.
Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said these 18 million families that either have no means or were deprived of their means of livelihood because most of them survive under a “no-work, no-pay” scheme are the primary beneficiaries of the "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act" approved early Tuesday morning by the Congress in a marathon special session, which was the first time that the Philippine legislature convened online.
“I am confident that the national government would be able to find a way to sort through the huge logistical demands of identifying the 18 million families that will benefit from the emergency subsidies. This best illustrates why we need a National ID system in place,” said Villafuerte, who sponsored the Bayanihan bill in the House of Representatives.
President Duterte signed the Philippine Identification System (Philsys) Act in August 2018, which Villafuerte co-authored.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) had initially planned to have all Filipinos enrolled under the Philsys by mid-2020 this year, and started registering certain sectors in November 2019. But the month-long Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), which President Duterte imposed in Luzon last March 16 to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus, has severely restricted the movement of people, imposed social distancing and stopped work in most government offices, thereby setting back NSA's target.
Philsys centralizes all personal information of Filipino citizens and resident aliens,
The system generates a Philippine ID (PhilID) and PhilSys Number (PSN) that will be used to authenticate the identity of citizens and resident aliens in all government and private sector transactions--including applications for driver’s license, passport, tax-related transactions, voter registration, application to schools and bank transactions.
Once Philsys is fully in place, there will be no need to provide government offices or private establishments with multiple IDs just to prove one’s identity when processing official documents or securing permits, Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte said that to provide funds for the emergency subsidies estimated which to cost around P200 billion for two months, the Bayanihan Act authorizes the President to reprogram, reallocate and realign from savings on items in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and utilize other legally available unspent funds, such as those in government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs).
The Bayanihan Act also provides for additional risk allowances for health workers on top of their hazard pay; compensation for health workers infected by COVID-19; and compensation for the families of health workers fighting COVID-19 who die in the line of duty.
It also authorizes the President to mobilize state funds to beef up the country’s efforts in containing the spread of the virus and the treatment of persons infected with it.
In his sponsorship speech, Villafuerte explained that the urgent priority of the government is to provide relief, in the form of food rations and cash transfers, to a projected 18 million households dependent on the "no-work, no-pay" setup who lost their only means of income with the severe restrictions on economic activity following the implementation of ECQ in Luzon and similar restrictions elsewhere to keep people in their homes and prevent them from getting infected with COVID-19.
Unless these poor and low-income Filipino families are given emergency subsidies by the government, he said in his sponsorship speech that many of them could die, not because of the virus, but because of hunger.
Villafuerte said the government had identified P275 billion in off-budget funds that could be tapped--once President Duterte is empowered to realign and reallocate them--for the Covid-19 response measures outlined in the Congress-approved Bayanihan bill.
He said P200 billion will go to the emergency subsidy plan for the 18 million households, while the balance of P75 billion will used for health-related matters such as the acquisition of Covid-19 testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPEs) for frontline health workers.