The government expects to remain outside the United States Trade Representative Special 301 watch list as the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines cautioned public offices against using unlicensed software.
The IPOPHL confirmed that the Philippines was flagged twice—in 2019 and 2020 reports—for using counterfeit software in government offices, both by the national and the local government units.
“That was mentioned by the USTR for the last two years during the 2019 and last year, in spite of the fact that we have already answered it. Structurally, the Philippine government has really put on so many safeguards for keeping the use of all softwares which are genuine and not pirated within even government offices,” IPOPHL deputy director general Teodoro Pascua said in a virtual briefing Monday.
He said the Philippine government was not sitting on any “comments that may be against our interest.”
“We are fully working on it and we thank USTR for calling our attention to it. We’re not perfect, but we will always do what must be done when our attention is called,” he said.
The government spent billions to update systems and buy original software, Pascua said. It was obtaining most of its software needs through the Department of Budget and Management.
IPOPHL is closely working with the Department of Information and Communications Technology and with the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines to spearhead the auditing of all government offices with respect to the use of genuine software.
“The government must be the first one to be the example. And we are not letting down our guard with respect to our fight against pirated softwares,” Pascua said.
The Special 301 is released annually by the Office of the US Trade Representative as an assessment of IP rights enforcement environments of US’ trade partners.
The report draws up lists which identify those who do not adequately or effectively protect IP rights or otherwise deny market access to US innovators and creators that rely on protection of IP rights. The Philippines kept out of the watch list since 2014.
The USTR’s last two report cycles, however, raised alleged IP rights enforcement gaps in the local scene such as the reported slow opposition proceedings and government’s use of unlicensed software.
Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2002 should address the issue and was cited in IPOPHL’s previous annual reports to the USTR.
The law requires that prospective bidders for the procurement of goods submit, under oath, eligibility requirements as they go through a stringent screening that ensures winning bidders are legitimate and deal only with genuine, authorized and good quality products.
This helps the government avoid any risks stemming from the use of unauthorized or substandard products.