Evacuation center in Tacloban (File photo)

MANILA – A priority measure that institutionalizes the government’s shift to e-governance for faster and improved delivery of services to the public is inching its way into law after its third reading approval by the House of Representatives.

During the plenary session on Monday, a total of 304 lawmakers voted to approve House Bill (HB) 7327, which seeks to institutionalize the transition of the government to e-governance in the digital age and create for the purpose of the Philippine Infostructure Management Corp.

Only 4 lawmakers voted against the bill.

The bill is a legislative priority of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as mentioned in his first State of the Nation Address.

Speaker Martin Romualdez, the principal author of the bill, said it aims to make government services accessible to the people.

“The bill would make it easier for people to transact with and avail themselves of services from the government through digital platforms. It would make the delivery of services more effective, efficient, and transparent,” Romualdez said.

His co-authors of the bill are Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Alexander Marcos and Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre.

House Committee on Information and Communications Technology chair Tobias Tiangco, sponsor of the measure, said the digitalization of services is the most efficient solution to bridge the gap in the delivery of government services.

Tiangco said e-governance can be simply seen as moving citizen services online, as well as the "technology-enabled transformation" of the government.

"This humble representation firmly believes that it is now high time to enact a law that would require all government agencies to transition to digital platforms. And in addressing the problem of longwinded delivery of services, and in intensifying the efficiency of all government offices, the better, if not the best solution is e-governance, which will provide the time-bound and cost effective delivery of service, and transparency in the work for both the government and the citizenry," Tiangco said

The bill seeks to adopt “a policy to create, foster and sustain a digitally empowered and integrated government that provides secure, responsible and transparent citizen-centered services and harnesses the potential of open data for promoting economic growth and a globally competitive Filipino nation.”

Among other objectives, it would “promote the use of the internet, information and communications technology (ICT) and emerging technologies within and across government agencies to provide citizen-centric government information and services, and improve the public trust and citizen participation in the government.”

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) shall be the principal implementer of the proposed law.

The DICT shall be responsible for the formulation of an E-Government Master Plan that will serve as the blueprint for the development and enhancement of all electronic government services processes.

The proposed law mandates that services needed for business and non-business transactions and documents, including permits, licenses, and clearances, shall be made efficient by integrating all agencies involved into one portal, mobile application, or similar platform.

It directs all agencies, including local governments, to continuously improve their websites and to establish an e-bulletin board for information dissemination.

The Philippine Infostructure Corp. shall be created to manage government ICT assets, including infrastructure, platform, and software. The corporation shall have an authorized capital of PHP5 billion.

Fully-equipped evacuation centers

Voting 307-1, the House of Representatives also approved on the third and final reading House Bill 7354, which seeks to establish “fully-equipped and fully-operational evacuation centers” in every city and municipality in the country.

According to the proposed measure, the evacuation centers to be constructed shall provide immediate and temporary accommodation for people who have been displaced by disasters, calamities, or other emergency events such as typhoons, floods, storm surges, drought and other severe climate disturbances, as well as fire, and the outbreak of illnesses and diseases that present imminent danger to life and property.

The bill also provides that existing structures that can meet the minimum requirements or can be upgraded to effectively serve as evacuation centers can be designated as such in compliance with the local government unit (LGU) concerned.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMC) and local executives of provinces, cities and municipalities are tasked to identify areas to be given the highest priority in the establishment of new evacuation centers.

Upon determination by the NDRRMC and the chief executives of LGUs, the NDRRMC shall make a priority list of LGUs needing evacuation centers.

When there is no available site where the government can construct a new evacuation center, an LGU included in the priority list is allowed to improve schools or existing structures used as evacuation centers by making these compliant with the minimum requirements such as location and structural capacity.

The NDRRMC shall coordinate with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Science and Technology with regard to the design specifications, cost estimates and construction details of the evacuation centers that will be constructed pursuant to this Act.

Under the measure, the LGU concerned shall be primarily responsible for the operation, supervision and management of evacuation centers.

HB 7354 provides that the initial amount necessary for the construction and maintenance of multi-purpose gyms will be charged against the budget provided for this purpose under the DPWH.

On the other hand, the construction and maintenance of additional facilities for schools already used as evacuation centers shall be charged against the appropriations for the Department of Education. Thereafter, such amounts necessary for the continued implementation will be included in the annual General Appropriations Act. (PNA)