Gatchalian seeks urgent enforcement of nat'l ID system for effective contact tracing


Posted at Apr 14 2020 08:25 PM

MANILA - Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday called for the immediate implementation of the national ID system to prevent mistakes committed in tracing persons suspected with COVID-19.

Gatchalian said in an interview the national ID system is "unique to everyone" as each has his or her own number in the system. He noted that the Philippines still "physically" gathers information of suspected and positive COVID-19 patients.

"More often than not, it's prone to duplication. It's also prone to fraud and the national ID system will enable local governments, as well as national government for that matter, to avoid all of this fraud and duplication," he told ANC.

The law for a national ID system was signed in 2018, mandating the government to create a single official identification card for all citizens and foreign residents, which is seen to curtail bureaucratic red tape, promote ease of doing business, and strengthen financial inclusion.

The government began "testing" the national ID system in the last quarter of 2019, with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) committing to "complete the enrollment of the population by mid-2022."

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier admitted his department encountered difficulties tracing people who came in contact with COVID-19 patients because some have incomplete or erroneous contact details listed with airline companies.

Gatchalian explained the national ID system is "confined to basic information" such as the unique number. He said the system cannot share personal information with other agencies and private corporations.

The senator noted that some countries with lower COVID-19 cases like Taiwan used their respective national data to trace their citizens' travel history.

Taiwan integrated travel records from its immigration bureau with its health ministry's existing database to alert doctors of their patients' travel history, the senator said.

He also cited Singapore's use of its National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) for collecting information for the purpose of contact tracing and other measures in its fight against COVID-19.

"The Philippines may learn from the experiences of Singapore and Taiwan on how these countries harnessed their national IDs in containing the outbreak that is sweeping across the globe. That's why the government needs to implement the national ID system as soon as possible to ensure that we will be more ready in case of future pandemics," Gatchalian said.

He, meanwhile, noted that the government's problem with implementing the system is looking for the right software and the "right implementor" for it.