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Group urges solons to speed up passage of e-governance bills

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A consumer advocacy group calls on lawmakers to act fast on the e-governance bills that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has committed to certify as urgent.

According to the CitizenWatch Philippines, the total digital transformation of national and local bureaucracies will boost the efficient and transparent delivery of government programs and services.

“The President has given his cue, and now it is the turn of legislators to take that cue,” said Orlando Oxales, co-convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines.

“These bills will fundamentally change the way public services are delivered to ordinary citizens, big and small businesses, and communities,” Oxales stressed.

The E-Government and E-Governance bills have been pending at the committee level in both the House of Representative and the Senate since August and September 2022. Sessions resumed January 23 of this year.

On January 12, the President met with the Digital Infrastructure Sector of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) and committed to certify the proposed E-Governance Act of 2022 as urgent.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Marcos told the international business community that the Philippines eyes recovery and development powered by digital technologies. “The proposed E-Governance/ E-Government Acts strike at the core of our nation’s bid to ride the wave of digital technology. They are a tool and an enabler for people and societies to thrive and prosper, and also for our leaders to govern us better,” Oxales said.

The E-Governance bill institutionalizes the transition of the government to e-governance, creating a policy to create, foster, and sustain a digitally empowered and integrated government. This, in turn, will ensure responsive and transparent online citizen-centered services for a globally competitive nation.

“CitizenWatch believes that the objectives of the bills — interoperability of operations and services, digitization of records and data of agencies, establishment of an online payment system for government transactions, automation of business registration and licensing related transactions as well as payment of taxes and accounting systems – are crucial to the delivery of basic public services and the implementation of much-needed projects that would boost our economy and hence the quality of life of our people,” Oxales said.

The private sector, through the PSAC, has made recommendations to the bill and has added provisions that would make it more responsive and effective.

Industry leaders in The Digital Infrastructure group of PSAC are Union Bank of the Philippines chief transformation officer Henry Aguda, Globe Telecom CEO Ernest Cu, PLDT CEO Al Panlilio, Converge CEO Dennis Uy, and BPI executive vice president and chief operating officer Ramon Jocson.

“Harnessing the private sector’s more advanced experience and expertise in optimizing the utility of digital technologies will be critical,” Oxales said. “Our bureaucracy has been trapped too long in its outdated processes and could use the innovative insights of the business community.”

“This measure has the support not only of the chief executive but of the private sector, which drives the country’s economic engines,” he said. “They join the clamor for a long overdue ‘upgrade’ of the entire bureaucratic system.”

“We need the e-Governance/ e-Government Acts to enable the fast transformation of our government from the slow and obsolete bureaucratic gauntlet of red tape to a digitized system that can deliver public services effectively and swiftly,” he added.

Oxales said that no matter how well-conceived government projects are, or how much of the public’s needs are considered in their planning, good intentions are not enough.

“If there are no effective processes in place, they will continue to suffer long delays, wastage of resources, and may even fail,” Oxales said. “We know this too well – we’ve seen this happen because implementing agencies are not enabled with the right digital technologies, connectivity, and skilled workforce.”

Oxales also highlighted that a digitally powered ecosystem limits opportunities for corruption. “Technology and transparency will replace personal discretion and opacity in the conduct of government functions,” he said. “E-governance will instill contactless and automatic tracking of all transactions and, when integrated with an operational national ID system, will result in a highly efficient and transparent bureaucracy.”

He said that only a digitally driven government ecosystem and properly skilled workforce can meet the demands of a fast-innovating digital economy.

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