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VILLAFUERTE TO CONGRESS: OK E-GOVERNANCE BILL NOW

Owing to the emergence of more transmissible COVID-19 variants that could necessitate more lockdowns, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said Congress could help the national government fast-track its digital transformation by approving the e-governance law, which will facilitate contactless transactions and ensure the uninterrupted delivery of basic services. 

Villafuerte noted that his proposed e-governance law, which mandates the establishment of an integrated, interconnected, and interoperable information and resource-sharing and communications network spanning the entirety of the national and local governments, was endorsed by President Duterte during his last State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The e-governance bill was approved by the House last year but remains pending in the Senate.

He said this proposed e-governance law, which has likewise earned the support of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), is part of his troika of legislative initiatives designed to further accelerate the Philippines’ digital switch. 

The other two are his proposals on institutionalizing the Bangko sa Baryo, and digital education. 

With the surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant and a possible extension of the stringent lockdowns in the country’s high-risk areas, Villafuerte has told his fellow lawmakers to trash Charter change (Cha-Cha) and focus instead on the approval of these urgent measures that would accelerate the country’s digital transformation.

Villafuerte said the Senate should scrap plans to take up the House leadership’s proposal to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution even after Senate President Vicente Sotto III had already committed to Speaker Lord Allan Velasco that the Senate will discuss this issue. 

“The Senate President gave no assurance it will be passed because the senators have long been cold to this proposal to amend the Constitution. Should he break his commitment to the House leadership, ignore the proposal and proceed to tackle other more urgent matters instead? It’s up to senators if they so decide to waste the Senate’s time on a proposal that is already dead in the water,” Villafuerte said. 

Villafuerte said discussing economic Cha-Cha (Charter change) is an exercise in futility, given that even Malacañang does not consider it a priority measure. 

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. 

He said President Duterte himself hinted in his last SONA that Resolution of Both Houses (RHB) No. 2—the Cha-Cha initiative of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco—that this is not a priority when he neither mentioned RHB 2 nor constitutional reform in his almost three-hour speech.

Instead, the President asked the Congress in his SONA to pass three priority economic reform bills—the amendments to the Foreign Investments Acts (FIA), Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA), and the Public Service Act (PSA), Villafuerte said. 

“These three investor-friendly measures should be the priorities of the House leadership,” he said, “along with the measures to accelerate the country’s digital transformation amid this pandemic era of contactless or online transactions.”

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 our economy more inclusive, especially for millions of Filipinos in the countryside. 

The e-governance bill was approved by the House last year but remains pending in the Senate.

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.

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. 

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