MANILA (UPDATED) -- Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Emmanuel Caintic told members of the House of Representatives Friday that the planned VaxCertPH digital vaccination certificate will not replace the existing “yellow card” issued by the Bureau of Quarantine as proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
This, as the DICT showed lawmakers a first look at the vaccine certificate.
“What is the difference between VaxCertPH and the yellow card? It was mentioned by the Asec (assistant secretary) of the DFA na yellow card is already internationally recognized and ang kailangan lang talaga is depende sa country,” Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Estrelita Suansing asked.
Caintic explained that the yellow card will be needed by people like seafarers, OFWs, and internationally travelers as proof of vaccination against other diseases besides COVID-19 before travel.
Suansing further asked: “If yellow card is already recognized internationally bakit meron pang VaxCertPH (why do we need VaxCertPH)? Is VaxCertPH a support to yellow card? Ano ito, mawawala na ang yellow card (will it replace the yellow card)?” Suansing asked.
Caintic said it was the World Health Organization that instituted the existing yellow card in 196 countries.
However, for COVID-19 vaccinations, more information is required in digitally-verifiable certificates than those currently stated in yellow cards following the recently released guidelines by the WHO, so a new document was needed.
“Ang kumplikado po kasi sa COVID-19 mas kailangan 'yan ng datos na 1st dose, 2nd dose, anong brand, kailan tinurok, may mga dagdag na mga variances… kung kaya ang WHO gumawa sila ng bagong standard. Kailangan siya maging digital, kailangan simple lang, mava-validate mo digitally kung valid ba ito,” Caintic said.
(COVID-19 is much more complicated and need more details like the 1st and 2nd dose, the brand, when it was administered, there are additional variances--that's why the WHO came up with a new standard. It has to be digital, simple, and can be validated digitally.)
Caintic said the Philippines is one of the earliest implementers of the digital certification system for COVID-19 vaccinations that is based on the WHO Digital Documentation for COVID-19 Certificates (DDCC) guidelines.
Suansing urged fellow lawmakers to call for making the yellow card, which currently costs P370, free of charge.
“May bayad ang yellow card sa BOQ. I'm really looking forward doon sa libre sana,” she said.
(There's a fee for the BOQ yellow card. I'm looking for it to be free of charge.)
Caintic also told lawmakers that for now, both certifications will have to be used. However, those who do not need to get certifications for non-COVID-19 vaccines, especially if not traveling abroad, can just get the digital VaxCertPH.
Caintic briefed the House Committees on Information and Communications Technology, Health and Economic Affairs Friday on the Philippine digital COVID-19 vaccination certificate portal (VaxCertPH), DICT's response to COVID-19 pandemic, and the progress of the country’s digital network infrastructure.
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Caintic told lawmakers VaxCertPH was developed from June 28 to July 30 for DOH as a self–service portal that can be accessed directly by Filipinos.
It developed a verification feature through QR code scanning for the BOQ or border authorities. It went through Alpha Testing from July 31 to Aug. 2 where the portal was tested by internal users from the Department of Information and Communications Technology, while beta Testing was from Aug. 9 to 31 for San Juan LGU employees.
Caintic said the public launch is on Sept. 1, and it would facilitate training for different stakeholders (LGUs, Contact Center, BOQ). They will also cascade to the different executive departments.
“Ang target is September, we can dry run in National Capital Region, specifically for OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) po muna, it will be properly communicated by our IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) po,” Caintic said.
(The target is by September, we can dry run in NCR, specifically for OFWs first, it will be properly communicated by our IATF Starcom.)
Caintic said it would take a few weeks to perfect the system. By October, VaxCertPH will be implemented even outside NCR, he said.
Caintic walked lawmakers through the process: first, data is uploaded by LGUs and reporting units to the central database, after which the data will be encrypted and digitally signed by the DOH’s private key, then the VaxCertPH will be presented in a QR code on a phone or paper.
The QR code is cryptographically verified by countries and LGUs, wallet apps and others using a portal or the public key. Caintic said the use of standard verifiable credentials allows VaxCertPH to be interoperable with and ingested by authorized wallet apps.
Caintic said it also adheres with WHO Digital Documentation of COVID Certificates (DDCC) guidelines as basis for global recognition and trust.
Also part of the briefing was the DICT Vaccine Administration System which went online in San Juan, Pasay, and Caloocan. In the pipeline are Makati, Quezon City and Marikina. It covers 309 teams or lanes, 113 vaccination sites and 100 LGUs.