(PNA file photo by Christine Cudis)

MANILA – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said it is looking forward to the fruition of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) for more efficient and effective delivery of social services.

DSWD Undersecretary for special concerns Camilo Gudmalin said the department could benefit a lot from PhilSys, a project of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), which will become the government’s central identification platform for all citizens and resident aliens in the Philippines.

“It will be a big help to DSWD. First, we will have proper identification of clients and it will eliminate misrepresentation and duplication of claims and assistance,” he said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency Wednesday.

DSWD has encountered delays in delivering the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) assistance to 18 million low-income families affected by the lockdowns brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Among those are reports of a family receiving two or more cash assistance, citing the agency does not have the master list yet of all beneficiaries at the time.

PhilSys will pave the way for the creation of the PhilID, a nontransferable card to be issued to all citizens or resident aliens.

PSA, the lead implementing agency said on its website that one of its major uses will be easier transactions of social welfare and benefits granted by the government.

“Second, it will further systematize targeting,” Gudmalin said, adding that it will also facilitate identification of vulnerable groups and for the agency to proactively develop and deliver social protection programs.

Month-long delay

In March, the DSWD was assigned as the lead agency for the implementation of the government’s SAP.

As stated under the Republic Act 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, the SAP aid amounting to PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 will be given to families belonging to vulnerable sectors who have been most affected by the community quarantine amid the public health crisis for two months (April and May).

Though the agency started with the distribution of the first tranche of aid in April, with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) transferring some PHP100 billion for the first tranche, it has encountered several problems that altered their timeline.

According to its website, DSWD reported that as of 8 p.m. of June 10, some PHP18.3 billion were released to 4,214,898 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P's) beneficiaries while PHP80.6 billion of the PHP81.7 billion downloaded to local government units were distributed to 13,312,530 non-4P's beneficiaries.

Included in the fund were cash assistance given to drivers in the National Capital Region (NCR) whose livelihood was also put to stop during the first part of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), where mass transportation was suspended.

Manual operations, low manpower

DSWD officials earlier lamented that the low manpower of local government units (LGUs) and that the agency relies heavily on manual operations for the most part of data collection and distribution process, hugely contributed to the slow pace of completing the task.

“LGU ang may limitations of manpower (The LGU lacks manpower),” DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said in a message to reporters.

The LGUs, she said, also had to do the initial validation and revalidation of their list.

She added that the difficulty in reaching coastal and island municipalities furthered the delay.

“We have coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Coast Guard for the provision of air and naval assets,” she said.

ReliefAgad app hastens process

DSWD Undersecretary Rene Glen Paje during a livestreamed announcement via 'uSAP Tayo' conference, said for the distribution of the second tranche of the assistance, they have incorporated everything they learned from the challenges encountered during the first tranche.

Developed by the Developers Connect Philippines Community of Technology Partners (DEVCON-DCTx), the launch of the ReliefAgad, a quick-relief system, enabled DSWD to expedite capturing social amelioration card (SAC) details and interface with any electronic payment systems.

Launched on May 14, the app aims to register 5 million more low-income families who are set to be added to beneficiaries of SAP.

Andrew Ambubuyog, director of DSWD Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Management Service, said in a Viber message that the ReliefAgad app has saved LGUs their budget from hiring more staff for the encoding and processing of data of beneficiaries.

“Two weeks of manual operation is equivalent to a day of output that we get from the ReliefAgad app,” Ambubuyog said in an interview with PNA.

On June 2, the platform has accumulated over 2 million registrations from 17 regions.

Despite conducting pilot runs in NCR, regions nationwide facilitated encoding of SAC forms through the ReliefAgad app.

“This means that other LGUs found the significant and urgent need for digital platforms like ReliefAgad in their provision of service,” he said.

Since it was launched, Calabarzon, with 1,094,332 registrations, recorded the highest, followed by NCR with 789,719 and Central Luzon with 103,413.

“The digital payment will be benchmarked and if found effective, I’m sure there will be more digital transactions in the future,” he said, as he cited the likelihood of transitioning to digital service providers for the agency’s ongoing projects.

DSWD is already discussing ways to maximize the use of ICTs in department programs.

“Under my cluster, for example, solicitation permits can now be done online, we are pilot-testing online tracing of orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated children and also in the online provision on counseling for depressed and traumatized persons,” Gudmalin, meanwhile, shared.

The online solicitation permit was only done during the emergency health situation.

Others, he said, were already in the pipeline and will be implemented this year.

Gudmalin added that these are part of performance governance system to make processes more efficient, and at the same time in compliance with the Ease of Doing Business Law.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), meanwhile, targets to register at least 5 million household heads by the end of 2020.

“The PSA reassures the public that work is continuing towards the accelerated implementation of PhilSys this year, with the goal of registering a majority of Filipinos and resident aliens by the end of 2022,” PSA said in a statement on May 11.

The system shall serve as the link in the promotion of social service delivery and strengthening of financial inclusion.

It also aims to contribute in enhancing administrative governance, reducing corruption and promoting ease of doing business.

“We will align/modify our information systems using the National ID as the primary key,” Ambubuyog, for his part, said.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the PhilSys Act in August 2018.

The PhilSys Act will pave the way for more efficient service delivery, enhanced administrative governance, reduced corruption, curtailment of bureaucratic red tape, promotion of ease of doing business, and strengthening of financial inclusion.

The President also assured the public that the government will protect the data in the PhilSys database, amid concerns of a possible data breach and privacy violations. (PNA)