ESPRESSO MORNINGS

By Joe Zaldarriaga

We are all living proof to this—business and government transactions a few years back were among the most challenging and time-consuming interactions Filipinos have ever encountered. Citizens have had to endure long lines and spend a significant amount of time to process documents and pay taxes and contributions.

This was only reduced with the introduction of digitalization in some government agencies.

Now, Filipinos need not physically travel and pay taxes and contributions, as the existence of digitalization allowed for payments through online banking and electronic wallets at their own comfort.

Admittedly though, the adoption of digitalization in the Philippines remained relatively slow as compared with other countries. According to the Department of Finance (DoF), tax collections from local businesses in the second quarter of the year alone jumped by 58 percent to P83.7 billion, while real property taxes rose by 42 percent to P60.68 billion.

However, total collections from digital platforms only amounted to PHP5.8 billion, which is just 2.3 percent of the total collections from local government units (LGU), and still far from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) target of digitalizing all retail payments by 50 percent. Last year, only 5 percent of LGUs in the Philippines implemented methods to accept electronic payments through the electronic payment and collection system.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno thus renewed calls to LGUs to implement online payments as well to ensure that taxpayer transactions are simpler, safer, and quicker. He added that digitalization of operations—which has already been adopted by revenue collecting agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC)—have resulted in the efficient tax administration through electronic means and which the LGUs can learn from.

Makati City can also be a good example to this. Just recently, the LGU was awarded as the top revenue collecting LGU in the Philippines. According to Makati Mayor Abby Binay, the city’s strong revenue generation efforts are a result of its efficient revenue collection system, such as the MAKA-Connect of the Makatizen Online Assessment and Payment Portal, which allows residents and business owners to pay their taxes and renew their business permits online.

Binay explained that the portal prevents crowding at the city hall since it enables the residents and business owners to settle their government processes without the need for them to personally come to the city hall.

Digitalization is already offering the Philippines a way out to generate revenues for economic recovery. It is just waiting for us to take advantage of the opportunities it has in store for us. The national government, being the backbone of the country’s development, must exhaust all measures and provide support to the local government and other agencies by providing them with the needed budget for digitalization and development.

Digitalization creates a space where the public and private sectors can work hand in hand for the greater good of constituents. With digitalization, the country’s revenues can dramatically enhance while operations will be streamlined for the benefit of the Filipino citizens. In addition, it will allow the economy to survive even under the most challenging economic conditions, and businesses that have transitioned from bricks to clicks have already been a huge testament to this.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Office of the Press Secretary.

 

About the Columnist

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Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.