September 25, 2020

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Philippine local government units go digital

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is urging all local government units (LGUs) to boost the digital economy and move towards digitised government transactions to reduce contact, impede further infection, and boost economic activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DILG Secretary, Eduardo M. Ano, has also directed LGUs to fast track the issuance of permits and clearances in setting up crucial infrastructure needed for digital connectivity across the country including the construction of cell sites to improve internet connectivity.

The millions working from home, the students looking forward to online learning, and the workers who depend on the digital economy are all expecting the government to address the gaps in the internet infrastructure. Therefore, the department is encouraging all LGUs to strengthen their digital platforms in their communities.

A press release noted that LGUs must encourage businesses to veer towards online money transfer, which has become part of the new normal, instead of physical payment.

Many businesses have now been engaging the financial services provided by major payment gateways such as Smart Padala, Gcash, PayMaya, Google, and Click2Pay.

These methods have drastically changed online payments from the conventional “pasaload” to a more sophisticated process of online payment, it said.

Cashless payment is convenient and saves more time than the usual payment medium and LGUs play an important role in providing the seamless and efficient delivery of public services.

Government officials also are instructing LGUs to build a network and partnership with various online payment providers.

Cashless payment in government transactions

In a webinar tackling digital disbursement, DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya stated that digital platforms can be an able partner of LGUs in ensuring the health and safety of the public while promoting economic growth.

The webinar discussed the advantages of gearing towards cashless payment in aid of various government services.

One of the possible primary benefits of cashless payments is the distribution of the second batch of the Social Amelioration Programme (SAP) subsidy.

The release said that the government advocates the use of online payment for taxes and mandatory social contributions. Including, GSIS, BIR, SSS, PagIBIG, and PhilHealth.

Despite some security issues that the government assures can be countered, online payment is also seen to reduce red tape and cost of doing business as all government agencies, through the Ease of Doing Business Act, are mandated to automate their processes including payment of taxes, fees, and charges.

Meanwhile, best practices are being implemented in every LGU as part of their COVID-19 response initiatives, such as online disbursement of subsidies for senior citizens and online payment methods for businesses and real property taxes.

The country’s central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), has announced that 65 government agencies are currently using the LandBank of the Philippines’ (LBP) electronic portal for various online services, and an additional 180 are expected to be on board in the next few months.

The agency is also promoting the use of QR codes as a simplified method for online payment, which 21 BSP-supervised financial institutions are using to date.

The DILG Secretary said that more than technological advancement, digitised government and consumer transactions are precautionary measures that can contribute immensely to impeding virus transmission.

The pandemic is giving LGUs a rare opportunity and a key role in bolstering digital platforms, not just in government services but also in building business and consumer confidence during these trying times.