Proposed 'Internet Transactions Act' passed on 2nd reading

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading House Bill (HB) No.4, also known as the proposed "Internet Transactions Act".

(Priscilla du Preez/ Unsplash)

Though a simple voice vote (ayes vs. nayes), the pro-digitalization bill gained the penultimate approval of the 311-strong House plenary during session Tuesday night, Dec. 6.

Included in the Common Legislative Agenda (CLA) of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), the measure seeks to create the E-Commerce Bureau in a bid to better protect consumers and merchants engaged in online transactions.

The E-Commerce Bureau will be tasked to regulate Internet commercial activities and protect consumers who engage in online transactions.

The main authors of the proposed statute are House Speaker and Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez, Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st district Rep. Sandro Marcos, and Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre.

“We are well on our way in our commitment to support measures that would hasten the country’s digital transformation to enable the government to provide faster and more efficient service to the public and ensure safe and secure digital commercial transactions,” Speaker Romualdez said last month after HB No.4 was endorsed for plenary approval by the House Committee on Trade and Industry.

Earlier, the trade and industry panel approved a consolidated version of the proposed Internet Transactions Act wherein it merged HB No.4 with 19 other bills.

The measure also aims to widen the adoption of e-commerce among Philippine micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

"Indeed, e-commerce in the country is in its nascent stage, rejecting immense potential for businesses...Notably, the Philippines has the lowest GMV (gross merchandise value) in 2019 at $7 billion--lower than Malaysia ($11 billion), Vietnam ($12 billion), Singapore ($12 billion), Thailand ($16 billion), and Indonesia ($40 billion), this--despite the Philippines' estimated 76 million active Internet users," read the measure.

"This bill seeks to promote an environment founded on trust among consumers and merchants as a means to increase the number of e-commerce participants, and ultimately a achieve sustainable growth," it added.

The proposed Internet Transactions Act is expected to hurdle third reading next week before Congress starts its five-week holiday recess.