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BSP supports quicker roll-out of national ID system

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By Lee C. Chipongian

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr., a staunch supporter and advocate of the national digital identification (ID) system, said that with both Congress and Senate’s approval of the Philippine ID System bill, he expects the roll-out of the national ID to be earlier than expected, or within the year.

“We (could) have a national ID as early as next month,” Espenilla told a gathering of thrift bankers yesterday. The actual implementation will take several more months after the bill was signed into law. “The government already allocated R2 billion to start the ball rolling,” he added. “This is a serious initiative and it will happen sooner rather than later.”

As the regulator of the country’s banking sector, Espenilla said the BSP will come out with rules requiring all banks to put in place terminals or stations for the biometric ID reading, which will solve a lot of security concerns for its customers, not to mention improvements to consumer protection.

“We are ready to recognize the national ID once in place,” he said later on the sidelines of the Chamber of Thrift Banks conference. “It will solve and address (problems of) money laundering compliance as well as resolve many (other) issues.” More importantly, the new ID system will benefit the millions of Filipino professionals and workers that are based overseas.

However, Espenilla said the implementation of the foundational biometric ID should be relatively smooth and sooner-than-expected, as long as it “does not get politically derailed.”

“We really need it (national ID) and we are the only one in ASEAN who doesn’t have one,” he added.

The national ID, more than being a physical ID, is first of all, an identification system that is platform-based and digitally enabled, emphasized Espenilla.

“The real authenticity of the information is the biometric inputs that are verifiable digitally,” he said. “You go to a terminal that reads your biometrics. Under this proposal, we are all assigned a random number which we will keep for life. It will not necessarily require a physical ID. But, there will still be a physical ID,” he said.

Espenilla said earlier that a reliable national ID will “significantly catalyze a digital ecosystem.”

“This (ID) system will address persistent customer on-boarding issues due to lack of acceptable IDs and the highly inefficient paper-based KYC (know-your-customer) processes which make serving small value transactors unattractive,” he said.

The Legislative Executive Development Council in August last year already tagged the national ID bill as an urgent measure. By September, Congress has already approved the bill and the Senate has committed to do the same in the first quarter of this year.

“The envisioned national ID system will be designed to ensure universal coverage, data integrity and security, and optimum utility,” said Espenilla. “It will serve as an enabling platform for the efficient delivery of a whole range of government and private sector services for all Filipinos – especially the currently unserved. Establishing a readily- verifiable digital identity will enable our people to open accounts and use financial services more efficiently.”

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