Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has made a final push in this third and last session of the 18th Congress for a troika of initiatives to further accelerate the Philippines’ digital switch that would help the Philippines keep up with the expected strong rebound of many of its regional neighbors from the Covid-driven economic malaise.
These digitalization initiatives are Villafuerte’s three legislative proposals on institutionalizing the Bangko sa Baryo, e-governance and digital education.
“We call on our colleagues in both chambers of the 18th Congress to give top priority to these three measures that aim to close the digital divide by transforming the way we transact and do business at the grassroots level.”
On the eve of the Congress’ reopening and President Rodrigo Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA), Villafuerte said digitalization should be on the front burner of the Legislature because it is “crucial for the country to keep up with the expected strong bounceback of other economies in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc.”
“We call on our colleagues in both chambers of the 18th Congress to give top priority to these three measures that aim to close the digital divide by transforming the way we transact and do business at the grassroots level, provide fast and reliable services to our people, and educate our children with minimal or no physical or face-to-face interactions amid the lingering pandemic,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte, who has championed the country’s digital switch even before the pandemic struck last year, said the use of technology-driven tools will provide the country with new opportunities for growth and make it inclusive, especially for millions of Filipinos in the countryside.
He made the call for the swift passage of House Bill (HB) Nos. 6924 (Bangko sa Baryo Act), 1248 or (e-governance law) and 7189 (Outside Class Learning and Digital Education Act) following the release of a study by London-based Capital Economics, which said the pace of economic recovery in the Philippines would be the slowest in Asia.
The think tank also sees a disappointing second-quarter performance of the economy following the renewed outbreak of Covid-19 cases in April that led to the reimposition of lockdown measures, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR), which accounts for more than a third of the country’s GDP.
Villafuerte said “the Philippines can turn the tide in its favor by accelerating its shift to digital technologies, which is expected to boost trade and create new, better-paying jobs for the work force.”
The Bangko sa Baryo proposal for one, aims to provide last-mile financial connectivity in unbanked communities nationwide through the use of digital tools, he said.
Villafuerte said “the swift congressional passage of the proposed Bangko sa Baryo Act will help President Duterte achieve his goal of financial inclusion for all Filipinos on his watch, and open new livelihood opportunities in faraway communities either unserved or underserved by the formal banking system.”
Villafuerte’s e-governance measure seeks to develop, promote and interlink electronic government services and processes in all government agencies and state-run corporations.
The “Outside Class Learning and Digital Education Act,” meanwhile, recognizes the need to develop the Philippines’ basic education curriculum in order to fully integrate learning beyond the confines of the classroom, such as distance learning and other alternative modes of education.
“The Philippines can turn the tide in its favor by accelerating its shift to digital technologies, which is expected to boost trade and create new, better-paying jobs for the work force.”
HB 6924 was already approved by the House of Representatives in August last year, but remains pending in the Senate. The Senate committee on banks and financial institutions chaired by Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares has, along with other Senate panels, last week led a joint committee hearing on the Bangko sa Baryo bill.
The e-governance bill, consolidated under HB 6927, was also approved by the House last year but is also pending in the Senate, while HB 7189 has remained in the House committee on basic education and culture.
Through e-governance, Villafuerte wants to establish a contactless, electronic-based system of services in all government offices and state-run corporations to do away with paper-based official transactions and physical queueing in government offices in the midst of the highly contagious and lethal pathogen.
His digital education bill, on the other hand, aims to make education accessible to all by ensuring flexibility in the use of learning strategies and available tools.
Villafuerte’s proposal also acknowledges the use of available resources other than the internet, such as television, radio and cable TV, by mandating periodic resources mapping, and the drafting of a digital technology roadmap as a key preparation for the transformation and adjustment of education for the future.
He said the Philippines needs to speed up its digital shift, especially with the predominance of online transactions and electronic payments, as well as the use of the internet to access information.