Digital as the new normal

MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Atty. Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
Digital as the new normal
Speakers in the series ‘Enabling LGUs in the New Normal Through Digital Payments Acceptance.’ (Top row) Host and moderator BusinessWorld digital platform editor Santiago Arnaiz, PayMaya enterprise head of public sector Marvin Santos and USAID E-PESO Project chief of party Mert Tangonan; (bottom row) ARTA director general lawyer Jeremiah Belgica, DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III and Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian.

Embracing the digital realm is something that has been accepted under the new normal.

But truth be told, this effort of charting new courses and exploring new frontiers in the digital universe has already been done even before the pandemic.

It was only during this time of lockdowns, quarantine, social distancing and staying at home or working from home that the importance of the digitalization of our way of life has been highlighted.

And this digitalization is as important at the local or grassroots level as it is in the big urban centers and metropoles.

In the second part of the series ‘Efficient Delivery of Government Aid Through Digital Disbursements’ are (first row) Santiago Arnaiz, SSS president and CEO Aurora Cruz-Ignacio and USAID E-PESO Project digital payment advisor Vice Catudio; (second row) ULAP president and Quirino Gov. Dax Cua, Jeremiah Belgica and DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya; (third row) Marvin Santos and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.

Recently, BusinessWorld Insights, PayMaya Philippines, and the USAID E-PESO Project held a three-part online series of forums for local government units on the digitalization of systems and processes at the local level.

These forums were held with the support of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), in partnership with the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).

The first leg of the series was titled “Enabling LGUs in the New Normal through Digital Payments Acceptance.” Here, local chief executives learned why enabling digital payments in government is important as we move into the “new normal,” and about how LGUs can easily adopt this system for better public service to their constituents.

Speakers in this forum were DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III, ARTA director general lawyer Jeremiah Belgica, and Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, who showcased the big strides that his city has taken in the digitalization of local government processes even before the pandemic.

In his opening remarks, PayMaya founder and CEO Orlando “Doy” Vea enumerated the many benefits of digital payments which, of course, include the ease of doing business and the promotion of physical distancing and touch-free transactions as part of the “new normal.”

Speakers for ‘Creating Digital Ecosystems to Jumpstart Local Economies.’ (First row) Santiago Arnaiz, DTI Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Pacheco and NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon; (second row) Angat Lahat sa Digital Alliance-Go Negosyo senior advisor Jopin Romero, Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez and DTI Secretary Mon Lopez; (third row) Marvin Santos.

“The past few months have brought to fore how digital technology can help the government in the uninterrupted delivery of essential services and faster disbursements of financial aid,” he said. “Pre-COVID-19, cash was king. Today, in the new normal, cashless is emerging as the preferred option.”

Valenzuela City launched the Paspas Permit application prior to the pandemic. This end-to-end permit system is digitized from application to delivery of permits and covers about everything from tax payments to applications for copies of civil registry documents.

The second part of the series was titled “Efficient Delivery of Government Aid Through Digital Disbursements” and it discussed how local government units were at the forefront of ensuring that critical government aid like the Social Amelioration Program reached citizens affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how digital payment technologies provided them with a faster and more transparent way of delivering aid.

Speakers in this leg were Social Security System president and CEO Aurora Cruz-Ignacio, ARTA director general Belgica, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, ULAP president and Quirino Gov. Dakila “Dax” Cua, and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso.

Digital transactions in government would definitely reduce red tape and ease the doing of business, Belgica emphasized.

Undersecretary Malaya also said that the pandemic made cashless transactions for LGUs more of a necessity. “If there is a silver lining, it is to prod and expedite the digitization of the LGUs under the ‘new normal,’” he said.

For his part, Mayor Isko acknowledged the importance of digital transactions not just in the distribution of aid but also in the creation of a citywide database and for policy formulation.

The third leg of the series was titled “Creating Digital Ecosystems to Jumpstart Local Economies.” Now that digitalization and digitization were acknowledged as highly important at the local level, especially under this pandemic, the question now was how to go about it, how to create the digital ecosystem to make it work and to make it stick.

Speakers in this last part of the series were Department of Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Mary Jean Pacheco, National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon, Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez, Quirino Gov. Dax Cua, and Angat Lahat sa Digital Alliance-Go Negosyo senior advisor Jopin Romero.

The series also saw the active participation of USAID E-PESO Project chief of party Mert Tangonan and digital payment advisor Vice Catudio with PayMaya enterprise head of public sector Marvin Santos.

The host and moderator for the whole series was BusinessWorld digital platform editor Santiago Arnaiz.

Assistant Secretary Pacheco acknowledged the partnership entered into between the agency and PayMaya last September 2019 on the business name registry system. DTI was one of the first, if not the first, in government to make available various payment options online. Since then, DTI has worked with PayMaya in the provision of other online applications. My congratulations to DTI Secretary Mon Lopez in that regard.

Undersecretary Edillon presented the economic roadmap of the country and the role of the LGUs. The country was well on its way to becoming an upper-middle income country in 2020 but then the pandemic happened, so now we are in the process of recharging and recovering.

Mayor Gomez presented how his city made progress in the digitalization and digitization of local government processes and its significant impact on local businesses. Even the payment of fines and penalties will now be channeled online.

“Business in Ormoc City is as easy as 1-2-3,” according to the good mayor.

All these bode well for the direction our country and local government units are taking as far as adapting to the new normal and digitalization is concerned.

Private sector initiatives like PayMaya Philippines are up to the task at hand, and we trust that government would provide the necessary support and structure, such as in the reduction of red tape, the speedy approval of permits, and the general ease of doing business.

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