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The Philippines at the helm of ASEAN’s data protection initiative

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took a major step in harmonising regional data protection, privacy regulations and initiatives by launching the first ASEAN Data Protection and Privacy Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, with the Philippines at the helm.

The Philippines was represented by Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro, who chaired the Forum’s inaugural meeting.

According to a recent press release, the Forum aims to foster sharing of knowledge and best practices, discussion of governance and operational know-how, as well as development of a framework for enforcement and cooperation.

Significance of the ASEAN Data Protection and Privacy Forum

During his welcome remarks, the Privacy Commissioner stressed that the ASEAN must harness technologies and digital innovation to its advantage through effective policies that will enable greater movement of data and ease of market access.

This will bridge the digital divide among the Member States and at the same time provide guidance to its digital citizens in protecting their data.

He reiterated that ensuring that everybody can benefit from the digital economy and that no one is left behind is the ASEAN Way.

Responsible data stewardship and data management across the region will protect and benefit all the citizens and certainly boost the region’s competitiveness.

The Agenda

Representatives from all 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS) were present as key decisions on priority areas for cooperation and the scope of the Forum’s work were made.

Developments and updates on the proposals about Data Classification Framework and Cross Border Data Flow Mechanism for ASEAN were also tackled during the meeting.

The Forum will serve as the platform for the AMS to exchange views and information on data protection and privacy matters, including enforcement cooperation.

Seeking to harmonise data protection and regulation, the Forum comes at a juncture in ASEAN history when privacy and data protection is becoming an important concern.

Current situation in the region

While ASEAN Member States are in varying stages of development when it comes to their respective data protection and privacy regimes, the Forum ensures that everyone has a seat on the table especially in tackling common issues on data protection and privacy.

To date, 3 ASEAN countries have data protection laws and established a data privacy authority regulator. These are the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Just recently, Thailand passed its own data protection law, while other states in the region, such as Indonesia, are in various stages of developing their own data protection and data privacy laws.

The Philippines’ National Privacy Commission and its mother agency, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), are closely working with Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) in developing the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance.

In 2018, the ASM endorsed the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance intended to enhance data management, facilitate harmonisation of data regulations, and promote intra-ASEAN flows of data.

It called for the creation of forward-looking and enabling policies to facilitate the growth of the digital economy in the region.

OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak with National Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro to gain insight on the Commission’s initiatives in Transforming the Philippines into a privacy resilient country.

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