MANILA -- The Philippines began Monday registering millions of citizens for its national identification system, hoping to promote electronic payments and make it easier for low-income earners without bank accounts to access financial services.
All Philippine citizens and resident foreigners are required to register such information as name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, blood type, address and nationality. Biometric data -- fingerprints, facial photos and iris scans -- also will be stored.
The country's current system, in which different agencies issue their own numbers, has been criticized as inconvenient. The new system will grant each person a unique number that can be used across agencies. The government hopes to make financial services more accessible to low-income workers who lack bank accounts as well as facilitate delivery of government services.
Officials from the Philippine statistics agency will visit homes to collect the personal information, completing the process before President Rodrigo Duterte's term ends in June 2022. The system is scheduled to begin operation in the second half of 2021 for services such as visa issuances.
A survey found 73% public support for the new ID system, suggesting that little concern exists over the collection of personal information by the government.
Karl Kendrick Chua, acting secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority, said the ID system will accelerate growth of the digital economy. He expressed hope that the national system will spark widespread use of electronic payments. Partnerships with the private sector also appear to be on the table.
Cash remains king in the Philippines despite moves by telecommunications companies PLDT and Globe Telecom to bring e-money into the mainstream. Online shopping has been slow to catch on, in part because payment on delivery is the norm. The new national ID system could change how companies do business.