Angara pushes digital payments to stop COVID spread

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara stressed the need to institutionalize digital payments both in the government and private sector, all agencies and establishments, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Sen. Sonny Angara
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Angara also said digitalizing payments is also part of the move to adapt to the new normal.

“Our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to institute digital payment systems and to have every Filipino benefit from cashless transactions,” Angara said in a statement.

“We saw thousands of people lining up for the distribution of cash aid under the Social Amelioration Program, which was not only inefficient, but unnecessarily exposed the beneficiaries and the people paying out the money to possible infection to the virus,” he said.

Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, noted that the growth of digital payments in the Philippines at a rate of 27 percent to 30 percent -- which is higher than the 25 percent average of emerging Asian countries -- but is still just one percent by volume of the estimated 2.5 billion payments made per month.

He said data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) suggest that the low volume of digital payments is due to the absence of banking offices in most parts of the country. There are also many house households that do not own bank accounts.

Angara said passage of Senate Bill No. 1764 or the Use of Digital Payments Act of 2020, which he filed, will help fast track the adoption of digital payments for all financial transactions in the country.

A counterpart measure filed by Bataan Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia III has also been filed in the House of Representatives.

Under the bill, all national government agencies (NGA), government owned and controlled corporations (GOCC), and local government units (LGU) would be required to “utilize safe and efficient digital payment” in the collection of taxes, fees, tolls, imposts and other revenues and in the payment of goods, services and other disbursements.

To ensure compliance, all government agencies, GOCCs and LGUs are required to adopt account-based disbursements where target recipients will directly receive government payments through their bank or digital accounts.

“Sa ganitong paraan ay mas mapapabilis ang paghatid ng serbisyo para sa ating mga kababayan, mababawasan ang mga pila at makakatipid pa ang pamahalaan ng daang milyon kada taon, (Through this mechanism we are able to expedite services to our citizens, minimize long queues and save the government of millions of funds every year),” Angara said.