Efforts to speed up the implementation of a national biometric ID program in the Philippines could result in an accelerated shift toward mobile ID technology.
Since 2018, government authorities have been working to collect residents’ biometric data – including face, fingerprint, and iris biometrics – as part of a new national ID program called the “Philippine Identification System”, or PhilSys. Last month, the Philippine Statistics Authority issued an update on the project, asserting that it had registered about 72.3 percent of the number of the population that government authorities were aiming to enroll by the end of the year.
Notably, the agency revealed that due to distribution issues concerning the physical ‘PhilID’ cards issued through the PhilSys program, it had been issuing a virtual version of the card that could be stored in a resident’s smartphone, and also used as proof of identity.
Now, according to a new report from PageOne, the recently elected President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (or “Bongbong Marcos”, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.) is asking the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, Arsenio Balisacan, to accelerate the PhilSys registration process. Marcos indicated in a Facebook post that the aim is to have the national ID cards issued throughout the country in the first half of 2023.
Elaborating on the intensified effort, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles framed the new ID program as a key component of the country’s efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic disruption.
In this context, Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte issued a statement adding his own voice to those urging authorities, specifically those at the Philippine Statistics Authority and the country’s central bank, to speed up the PhilSys project, noting that it can help to facilitate the delivery of services and financial aid to impoverished residents.
Rep. Duterte added that issuing mobile IDs could be helpeful in fast-tracking the ID issuance process.
None of this amounts to formal backing for the mobile ID wing of the PhilSys project, of course, and PageOne notes that considerable funding has already been allocated to the production of physical PhilID cards. But with mobile IDs becoming increasingly popular among governments around the world, and a new sense of urgency behind the PhilSys project, the rhetoric certainly points in that direction.