Philippines Responding to the Challenge of the Digitized Society v.3Janette Toral
My advocacy in e-commerce started when I founded the Philippine Internet Commerce Society in 1997 with peers in the industry joining the cause. This with the goal of making e-commerce a reality for Filipinos. The group played an important role in lobbying for the passage of the Y2K Law and E-Commerce Law of the Philippines. Later on, I realized that I need to work on this cause further that led to the publication of my 1st book and this website – DigitalFilipino.com
Republic Act 8792, or the Electronic Commerce Law was enacted last June 14, 2000. Efforts for its passage started as early as 1992 with the Electronic Evidence Act. The law defines Philippines policy on electronic transactions to enable the country’s players and consumers to actively participate in electronic trade.
The law provides:
1) Legal recognition of electronic documents, electronic data messages, and electronic signatures;
2) Guidelines for retention and storage of documents in electronic form;
3) Recognition and validity of electronic contracts;
4) Guidelines for use of transport documents in carriage of goods;
5) A 2-year mandate for government to have the capability to transact its business electronically;
6) The directive for the Department of Trade and Industry to function as the country’s e-commerce authority;
7) The penalties to crimes such as hacking, cracking, and piracy offenses;
8) Made banking transactions done through ATM switching networks absolute once consummated;
9) Parties are given the right to choose the type and level of security methods that suit their needs;
10) Mandates RPWeb, a strategy that intends to connect all government offices to the Internet and provide universal access to the general public, to be implemented;
11) Made cable, broadcast, and wireless physical infrastructure within the activity of telecommunications;
12) Provided guidelines as to when a service provider can be liable;
13) All existing laws such as the Consumer Act of the Philippines also applies to e-commerce transactions.
Since the passage of the law, numerous e-commerce initiatives by government agencies came into reality intending to comply with the passage of the law. At the policy level, the government is continuously updating its plans and programs to set clear directions to develop and accelerate the use of IT. Policies that have been released in 2006 includes:
- Financing for Information Technology Build-Up (SME-FIT) (PDF file)
- DTI Administrative Order #8: Prescribing Guidelines for the Protection of Personal Data in Information and Communication Systems in the Private Sector (PDF file)
- Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Circular No. 542: Consumer Protection for Electronic Banking
- DTI-DOF Joint Administrative Order #2: Guidelines Implementing R.A. 8792 on Electronic Payment and Collection System (EPCS) in Government (PDF file)
Here are some of the government initiatives in the application of e-commerce. They are classified in three categories.
1. e-Filing. These are government websites that create, accept and retain electronic documents.
- E-Reklamo. This website by the Consumer Assistance and Information Network System of the Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection extends is consumer help desk online. Filipinos can now submit complaints or concerns on any unfair business practices and abuse of consumer rights.
- SSSText and SSS Web Online Inquiry. A service that provide members with access to information and verify their contributions, loans and/or benefits application status.
- TIN Verification System. This enables authorized users, access to both the old and the updated taxpayer information. The main purpose of the system is to help users validate and obtain correct TIN for a taxpayer.
- B2BPriceNow.com of Landbank of the Philippines. This website allows farmers and cooperatives to post their products online and mobile phones. Buyers can visit this site to check out various agricultural products and services available in the country. It also provides a medium where prices can be verified on various commodities.
- GSIS Infotext and website. The service give members access to his own records at GSIS and take a look at or download his statement of accounts and all his transactions related to his membership status, insurance policy, loans (salary, policy, emergency, pension and housing) as well as claims and benefits (retirement, life insurance claims, survivorship, etc).
- Passport Direct of Department of Foreign Affairs. Allows people to renew their passports over the phone.
- University of the Philippines Open University. This site allows anyone, anywhere to sign up for courses at the university online.
- DTI-Business Name Registration System is a web-based system for filing and registering a business name by sole proprietors.
2. e-Payment. Accept payment and issue receipts in electronic form.
- SSSNet. Social Security System’s electronic network allows companies to transact electronic monthly contribution lists, payment orders, credit/debit advice notices, and updating of records using the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) technology.
- SSS Auto Debit Arrangement. SSS voluntary, self-employed and househelper’s employers can enroll in the Auto-Debit Arrangement (ADA) program with SSS accredited banks. This allow members to have their contributions be deducted from their bank account on a regular basis therefore removing the hassle of going to the branch and execute payment.
- Electronic Filing and Payment System (EFPS) by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. An integrated environment consisting of Electronic Filers (Taxpayers), Financial Institutions (Accredited Agent Banks or AABs), and BIR core applications to facilitate the Electronic submission of Tax Returns and payments.
- E-Census. The National Statistics Office website and call center allowing Filipinos to request for birth, marriage, no-marriage, and death certificate electronically. Payment can be made through Metrobank or through the PayPlus online ATM payment gateway.
- SEC-iRegister is a web-based system for filing and registering corporations and partnerships. The registration grants the entity juridical personality.
At this point, there are no government websites that accept application and issue permits in electronic form or what I would refer to as e-Permit.
Note that this is the same list that we had in 2002. There”s not much progress has been achieved in this area since e-commerce implementation got derailed in 2001 to 2005. This was primarily caused by the transfer of the Information Technology Electronic Commerce Council (ITECC) from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Office of the President at that time. ITECC was later on abolished to give way to the creation of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology.
Only when the prioritization of the E-Commerce Law implementation is prioritized and the approving authority of the Department of Trade and Industry on the annual one billion pesos E-Government Fund is recognized, by the Office of the President, can we go back on track again.
Despite the Internet bubble, e-commerce in the Philippines is getting stable as the hype gradually eased out. Several shops have closed down or merged. Close to 1000 Filipino websites are online today with its own domain name.
In surveys that I do for my research publication, the DigitalFilipino StatsReport, it shows that the top products that Filipinos buy online are clothes, books, computer software, domain name, web hosting, and travel services.
At a glance, you’ll find the following developments to date.
- Business-to-business (B2B) trading in the Philippines is as vibrant as ever as supermarkets like SuperValue, Makro are expanding their hub membership. Several B2B service providers such as BayanTrade, B2BPriceNow.com, Medilink, among others are growing.
- Philippine-based payment gateway providers hardly exist in the past. But the number has increased through the years with players such as My1Time, YesPayments, Equitable-PCIBank, UnionBank, among others ready to serve local merchants wanting to accept ATM, credit card, and debit card payments online.
- Business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce is gradually stabling as well. Innovative merchants had come up with products and services serving Filipinos from all over the world. Some of the notable sites are MyAyala, RegaloService, e-2-door, PinoyDelikasi, Your One Stop Shoppping Network, among others.
- E-Banking is also getting popular in the Philippines as the number of users increases. Some of the popular local banks are BPI, Unionbank, Citibank, Equitable-PCI, HSBC, UCPB, among others.
- E-Travel is gradually becoming a reality for Filipinos too. One can now buy tickets online at Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and through travel sites such as Trabilis and Lakbay.
- E-Learning. Filipinos now has the capability to earn a degree or certificate courses online as several universities, technical and online schools offer such facility.
There are around 177 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country today with the major providers offering 56K service at an average rate of $0.50 per hour. DSL, wireless and fixed broadband, cable, satellite Internet facilities are now being offered as well.
The number of Philippine Internet users ranges from 7.5 to 20 million. Contributing heavily to its growth are Internet cafes (rentals) that allowed Filipinos who don’t own computers to gain access to the facility at an affordable price at US$0.20 to $1 an hour. An increasing number of schools and SMEs accessing the Internet contributed to the growth as well.
Penetration of computers in Filipino households has increased significantly and presently estimated to be at 2.2 million with 1.5 million having access to the Internet. The primary purpose why people go online is to access research information.
The current liberalized telecommunications environment has so far resulted in the operation of the following: 69 private telephone operators, 4 government telephone operators, 11 international gateway facility operators (those that can provide international long distance calls), 7 cellular mobile telephone system operators, 8 paging companies, 14 inter-exchange carrier licensees (those that service other carriers’ traffic using their own networks), 9 broadband services operator, and 19 satellite operators. Although the country has an installed capacity of 6,538,387 installed capacity, there are only 3,367,252 million fixed (land line) phone lines subscribed as of end December 2005.
Cellular mobile telephone service subscriptions reached a subscriber base of 34,778,995 as of end December 2005, from 15,383,001 in 2002. Telephone line charges is fixed at an average of US$15-$25 per month.
The country was dubbed as the text messaging capital of the world as an average mobile phone user sends 20 text messages a day. This totals to 250 million text messages passing through carriers daily.
Value added services such as location-based services, logos, icons, ringtones, picture messages, news, games, among others contribute greatly to its popularity.
Various Internet services are now being extended to the mobile phone as GPRS and WAP are being offered at affordable rates. Mobile email is being promoted extensively as well.
From the year 1999, the government embarked on an extensive campaign in positioning the country as the E-Services Hub of Asia. Areas of focus are into animation, software development, contact centers, medical transcription, shared services/back-office.
Apart from conducting trade missions and join trade shows in U.S., Europe, Japan, and ASEAN, the government has organized an annual tradeshow, E-Services Philippines, dedicated in promoting the sector.
There’s so much to tell on what the government and private sector is doing to make e-commerce a reality for all Filipinos, regardless of age and class. I believe that e-commerce, if done right, can result to poverty alleviation and economic prosperity. It espouses for transparency in governance, efficiency, and elimination of red tape. The technology does not discriminate between the rich and poor as both can get access to it and establish itself online at a level playing field. What will limit us is the extent of our knowledge and decisiveness to make things better.
- State of E-Finance and E-Payment in the Philippines
- Making E Work
- Problems in bringing Paypal.com to the Philippines
- Unifying Force
- E-government leadership
- Bold moves