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Immediate implementation of the National ID System needed to combat future pandemics

The government needs to fast track the implementation of the national ID system for a quicker health and calamity response in the future to prevent a repeat of the mistakes committed in tracing persons suspected with COVID-19 infections, according to Senator Win Gatchalian.


MANILA, Philippines – Wearing his family’s Home Quarantine Pass like a typical ID card, a young man walks his way home after buying household essentials in Sta. Mesa district, 28 March 2020, amidst unprecedented efforts across all social sectors to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, Senator Win Gatchalian is reiterating the immediate implementation of the National ID System citing that the Philippines should learn from the experiences of Singapore and Taiwan on how they harnessed their national IDs in fighting the disease. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The law, which was signed by President Duterte in August 2018, is aimed at creating a single official identification card for all citizens that would interconnect government-issued IDs.

The government has started pilot testing the national ID system last year which originally was set to run up to June this year before formally rolling out the project in July next year.

Gatchalian recalled during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health assessing the Philippine government’s preparedness on the outbreak of COVID-19 last February that Health Secretary Francisco Duque admitted that they 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 said some countries with lower COVID-19 cases like Taiwan used their respective national data to trace their citizens’ travel history. Since January when the world started taking notice of a new coronavirus disease that was rapidly spreading from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the neighboring Taiwan integrated travel records from its National Immigration Agency with the National Health Insurance Administration’s (NHIA) existing database to alert doctors of their patients’ travel history. By scanning the patient’s NHI card, an alert will pop up if the patient has traveled to or transited through countries with high cases of COVID-19.

Singapore also made 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.

Taiwan and Singapore have each recorded 2 deaths as of March 26 while the rest of other nations grapple to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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.

“Matagal nang naipasa ang Philippine Identification System Act sa bansa. Napapanahon na upang ito’y gamitin bilang tugon sa mga emergency situations tulad ng krisis na nararanasan natin ngayon,” he added.

The National ID System will have basic information to be sourced from data collected by the Philippine Statistics Authority. The cards will be given for free.