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World Asia 30 Aug 2018 Philippines follows ...

Philippines follows India, introduces biometric IDs

AGENCIES
Published Aug 30, 2018, 3:15 am IST
Updated Aug 30, 2018, 4:02 am IST
At least 10 million people can't open bank deposit accounts because they don't have identity documents and cards.
Many Filipinos face a nightmare to transact with formal financial institutions that need at least two government-issued ID cards and other documents.(Representional Image)
 Many Filipinos face a nightmare to transact with formal financial institutions that need at least two government-issued ID cards and other documents.(Representional Image)

Manila: The Phillipines is set to roll out a massive biometric programme akin to Aadhaar by spending 30-billion pesos ($563 million). 

Lisa Grace Bersales, head of statistics office, is in charge of rolling out the programme that was signed into law earlier in August. President Rodrigo Duterte introduced the new biometric system to give Filipinos a national identity card to give access to everything from government services to bank accounts and jobs. 

 

“Everyone will be in the picture,” Bersales said in an interview at her office in Manila. “No one will be left behind.”

The first step, Bersales, 60, said will be collecting data, such as eye scans, fingerprints and facial images, from one million beneficiaries of state cash handouts in the fourth quarter. Undocumented individuals and minority ethnic people will be targeted next, with the goal of registering and assigning a permanent ID number to all 106 million Filipinos by 2022.

In the Philippines, Southeast Asia’s worst saver, the programme is key to the central bank’s financial inclusion push, which focuses on using mobile-phone applications and online payments systems to draw more people into banking system.

 

At least 10 million people can't open bank deposit accounts because they don't have identity documents and cards.

Many Filipinos face a nightmare to transact with formal financial institutions that need at least two government-issued ID cards and other documents. About 7.4 million Filipinos don't even have the most basic record of identity, a birth certificate, the statistics authority estimates. A reliance on cash results in many of them turning to loan sharks and pawnbrokers for loans that carry interest rates of as much as 20 per cent a month.

 

For financial technology companies like Globe Telecom Inc. and Jack Ma's Ant Financial, the national ID system - known as Phil-ID - is a boon in a country where 70 per cent of the population own a mobile phone.

"This legal recognition is essential to citizens, assuring them of their most basic human rights such as their right to access financial services," said Lito Villanueva, managing director at FINTQnologies Corp., the financial technology unit of PLDT Inc.-backed software company Voyager Innovations Inc.

A nationwide ID programme will reduce the company's risk and transaction costs and help its goal of bringing 30 million people into the formal financial system by 2020, he said.

 

Businesses like Ayala Corp. and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. also see opportunities, submitting a proposal to the statistics agency to collect, manage and authenticate identity information of individuals.

Bersales said the government prefers a competitive auction, but will consider the proposal along with about 40 other companies that have submitted informal plans. The contract will be awarded in November.

The biometric system isn't without its critics. Religious groups, the media and data privacy watchdogs have raised concerns that the ID can be used to centralize and monitor transactions. Leftist lawmakers who objected to the bill said it can be used to harass opponents of Duterte.

 

Bersales said the concerns were unfounded and any data collected will be subject to existing privacy laws.

For the 31-year-old housekeeper Magracia, it's all about finally becoming official.

"People say a birth certificate is important and more especially so when you die," she said. "They say you can't be buried without it, so I'm still hoping to get one someday if given the chance."

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