The House committee on information and communications technology (ICT) has given its nod to the measure on E-Government that seeks to interlink electronic or contactless services and processes in all government agencies and corporations to ensure that the Philippines gets ahead of the curve in the new norm of continued social distancing and digital transactions.

This committee passed before the Congress’ sine die adjournment House Bill (HB) No. 1248, which, according to its principal author, Deputy Speaker LRay  Villafuerte, ”will further, improve the ease of doing business while encouraging people to keep practicing physical distancing in the new normal by letting them transact official business without actually having to go to the various government agencies themselves.” 

HB 1248 mandates the DICT to implement an E-Government Master Plan.

Tarlac Rep. Victor Yap, who chairs the committee, moved for the approval of Villafuerte’s bill after officials from various agencies, including  the Departments of ICT (DICT), of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and of Trade and Industry (DTI) expressed their support for HB 1248 during a virtual hearing.

Bataan Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia III then moved to have all lawmakers present during the panel hearing be made co-authors of Villafuerte’s bill.

Villafuerte pointed out during the hearing that although the DICT has an e-government master plan, this has not been institutionalized across the bureaucracy, so there is actually no technical and information interoperability framework in place for the national and local governments.

To remedy this, Villafuerte said HB 1248 aims to (1) integrate the citizen frontline services of all agencies handling business registration, digitization of archives, and records management information systems (MIS) across all offices; and (2) adopt an internet-based electronic payment facility to enable people and companies to remit payments electronically to agencies, among other provisions.

Said Villafuerte: “This measure aims to prepare and educate Filipinos  for life after the lifting of the restrictions imposed by the national government and  LGUs (local government units) to contain the spread of COVID-19 through  new norms of social or physical distancing  and safety measures in government and private  offices, schools, commercial establishments, and other public spaces.”

This bill serves as a companion bill to HB 6623 or the proposed ‘Better Normal for the Workplace and Public Spaces Act of 2020, which Villafuerte and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano recently filed along with 196 other House members.

Villafuerte said the promotion of electronic transactions  across the bureaucracy jibes with his earlier proposal on the fast-track and full implementation of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) project of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), as it would be ideal for people to use their would-be National identification cards (IDs) in transacting with government offices.

HB 1248 proposes the “technical and informational interoperability” of the ICT systems of all government offices.

HB 1248 mandates the DICT to implement an E-Government Master Plan, which has six major imperatives topped by the  integration of the citizen frontline services of all agencies handling business registration, digitization of archives and records management information systems (MIS) across all offices, and adoption of an Internet-based electronic payment facility to enable people and companies to remit payments electronically to agencies.

HB 1248 proposes the “technical and informational interoperability of the ICT systems of all government offices through the Internet-based E-Government System, to clear the way to the further improvement of the ease of doing business  in the country and minimize corruption while at the same time making the Philippines ahead of the curve in the practice of social distancing under the new normal scenario of possible coronavirus outbreaks in the years to come.”

Villafuerte said his proposed E-Government Master Plan  has six major components, namely:

• An interoperability framework to guide and govern basic  technical and informational interoperability of the ICT systems of all government agencies and corporations;

• An Archives and Records Management Information System for all government documents and records. 

This will entail the digitization of paper-based documents  and  records and the development of systems that will manage the  creation, routing, tracking, archiving and disposal of all  official  documents—while adhering to existing policies, laws  and ISO standards;

• An Internet-based Government Online Payment System and gateway that will enable citizens and businesses to remit payments electronically to government agencies. 

This will involve various delivery channels, including debit  instructions (Automated Teller Machine or ATM accounts),  credit instructions (credit cards) and mobile wallets (short  messaging system or SMS);

• A Citizen Frontline Delivery Services that  would facilitate business registration-related transactions by integrating all agencies involved in business registration.

Proposed for inclusion are  such agencies and firms as the  DTI, Securities and  Exchange Commission (SEC), Cooperative Development  Authority (CDA),  Bureaus of Internal Revenue  (BIR) and of Customs (BOC), Social Security System (SSS), Home   Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth),  Land Transportation Office  (LTO), LGUs and other offices issuing  permits and licenses;

• A Public Financial Management system to harmonize such financial systems in government  as taxation, payment systems, accounting and  business registries; and

• A Procurement System providing online and real-time services encompassing all procurement processes involving bidding, contract agreements, and payment for services or supplies.

“The adoption of the six components of the master plan would enhance the access to and delivery of government services to bring about efficient, responsive, ethical, accountable and transparent government service,” he said.

Villafuerte said his proposal also covers the inventory and purchase of hardware and software of all government offices, as well as the use of servers, network connections and data centers in all government offices.

It will also involve, he said, the adoption of  security, disaster recovery plans and archiving services and capabilities that are already available as well as future information systems; and the standardization of systems across government agencies to promote interoperability and database management.

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