Philippines plant ID system to get its poorest inhabitants on the map News

Mayalyn Magracia is one of millions of undocumented Filipino immigrants.

& # 39; As an alien, & # 39 ;, the housekeeper in Manila describes what she felt when she discovered that she did not have a birth certificate.

That was more than a decade ago, when Magracia hoped to find work in a factory or restaurant. If you did not have a birth certificate, it was not possible to request a government issued identity card to get a regular job.

President Rodrigo Duterte's solution for this is a new biometric system that will give Filipino's Magracia a national identity card, giving access to everything from government services to bank accounts and jobs.

As head of the statistical office, Lisa Grace Bersales is responsible for the rollout of the $ 563 million program, which was incorporated into the law earlier this month.

"Everyone comes into the picture," she said in an interview at her office in Manila. "No one will be left behind."

The first step, says the 60-year-old Bersales, will collect data, such as eye scans, fingerprints and facial shots, from one million beneficiaries of hand baggage in the fourth quarter. Undocumented migrants and ethnic minority groups will be targeted as follows, with the goal of registering and assigning a permanent ID number to all 106 million Filipinos by 2022.

The goal is to replicate the success of India's biometric ID program, the largest in the world, after launching in 2009, which has been around 1.2 billion people since its introduction in 2009. Known as Aadhaar, or foundation, the ID is used for everything from opening a bank account to registering a marriage.

In the Philippines, the worst saver in Southeast Asia, the program is the key to the push of the central bank's financial inclusion, which concentrates on the use of mobile phone applications and online payment systems to attract more people to the banking system . At least 10 million people can not open bank deposits because they do not have identity documents and cards.

For many Filipinos it is a nightmare to carry out transactions with formal financial institutions that require at least two government-issued identity cards and other documents. About 7.4 million Filipinos do not even have the most basic identity data, a birth certificate, estimates the authority of statistics. An appeal to cash means that many turn to usurers and pawnbrokers for loans with an interest rate of up to 20 percent per month.

For financial technology companies such as Globe Telecom and Jack Ma's Ant Financial, the national ID system – known as Phil-ID – is a blessing in a country where 70 percent of the population has a mobile phone.

"This legal recognition is essential for citizens and ensures their most basic human rights, such as their right to access to financial services," says Lito Villanueva, managing director at FINTQnologies Corp., the financial technology unit of PLDT Inc. Voyager Innovations Inc.

A national ID program will reduce the risk and transaction costs of the company and help the target to bring 30 million people into the formal financial system by 2020, he said.

Companies such as Ayala Corp. and Equitity Ventures from Aboitiz also see opportunities by submitting a proposal to the statistical office for collecting, managing and authenticating identity information of individuals.

Bersales said the government would prefer a competitive auction, but will consider the proposal along with about 40 other companies that have submitted informal plans. The contract will be awarded in November.

The biometric system is not without its critics. Religious groups, the media, and data privacy watchdogs have expressed concern that the ID can be used to centralize and control transactions. Left-wing legislators who objected to the law said it could be used to harass opponents of Duterte.

Bersales said that the concerns were unfounded and that all collected data are subject to the existing privacy legislation. The Statistical Office called the National Privacy Commission to make rules for the storage and use of collected data, she added: "Privacy must be coded in every part and design of the system."

For the 31-year-old housekeeper Magracia, everything is about to finally become official.

"People say that a birth certificate is important and especially when you die," she said. "They say you can not be buried without it, so I still hope you'll get one if you get the chance."

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