No ID, no entry

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With the signing by President Rodrigo Duterte of Republic Act 11055 creating a national ID system, we finally join the ranks of countries that have long required their citizens to have their own distinct identification.

According to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, author in the Senate of the Philippine Identification System Act, the national ID would allow Filipinos to have proof of identity that would enable them to make public and private transactions without any hassle. He had earlier dismissed concerns that the national ID system would violate the privacy of individuals: “Those who claim that the Philippine national ID system will violate the people’s right to privacy ought to know that under the measure, only two questions are addressed: one, who are you? Two, are you who you claim to be?”

For Rep. Ruffy Biazon, one of the bill’s proponents in the House of Representatives, the new ID system is a “principal tool of governance” that would cut red tape, deter corruption in public transactions and increase government efficiency by using more accurate demographics in providing social services.

The Philippine Identification System or PhilID will harmonize, integrate and interconnect government ID by establishing a single national ID system.

Every Filipino and resident alien of the country would be identified via the use of a PhilID number which would be a randomly generated, unique and permanent ID number assigned to each individual to be incorporated in all ID systems of government agencies.

It’s not mandatory to register for the PhilID, but those who do will have their personal details collected, such as full name, gender, blood type, date and place of birth, marital status and photo.

Other personal data, such as mobile number and email address, which are optional and biometrics data that include a full set of fingerprints, facial image and iris scan, will be stored in the Philippine ID System, or PhilSys, a centralized database established by the law to house all vital information generated by the system. PhilSys will be managed and safeguarded by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

We recall that previous efforts to create a national ID system had been stoutly opposed by various groups, especially those identified with the mainstream Left, on privacy grounds, as the movement of their people working underground could be easily traced. They even succeeded in making the Supreme Court issue a ruling that indeed the national ID violates the right to privacy. But with the law now in place, will they once again run to the Supreme Court to challenge its constitutionality?

Tobacco harm reduction

The House of Representatives has unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Department of Health (DoH) to promote harm reduction measures as part of its National Tobacco Control Strategy, particularly the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or “vapes”) as a less harmful alternative for smokers.

Co-authored by Rep. Anthony Bravo and Rep. Jose Tejada, House Resolution 1885 cited the observation of the World Health Organization that in the U.K., where strict tobacco control measures are in place and electronic nicotine delivery systems (which include e-cigarettes) are becoming more popular, smoking prevalence, cigarette consumption and overall nicotine use appear to be gradually decreasing.

The proposed bill also referred to independent studies by Public Health England (PHE) and Cancer Research UK which showed that since e-cigarettes were introduced in the U.K., smoking prevalence among adults and the youth had declined, confirming that e-cigarettes do not serve as a gateway to smoking.

“By unanimously adopting the resolution, the House of Representatives is sending a strong message to the DoH to abandon its misguided belief that ‘quit or die’ are smokers’ only choices and instead follow the lead of the United Kingdom and other countries that have adopted harm reduction as part of their tobacco control strategies,” said Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA).

“We thank our legislators for keeping an open mind to the growing body of scientific evidence supporting e-cigarettes as a significantly less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes. We urge the DoH to do the same and help save lives,” said Peter Paul Dator, president of The Vapers Philippines.

The resolution quoted PHE National Director Prof. Kevin Fenton who said: “The evidence is clear that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes are helping many smokers to quit…Different approaches will be appropriate in different places, but policies should take account of the evidence and clearly distinguish vaping from smoking.”

Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a leading researcher and expert on tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes, has urged the Philippine government to create a regulatory framework for e-cigarettes that is reasonable, proportionate and realistic. “It must be different from regulation of tobacco cigarettes; otherwise, people may be deceived into thinking that e-cigarettes are the same as tobacco cigarettes.”

H.R. 1885 was submitted and endorsed by Rep. Ferjenel Biron, chair of the House Committee on Trade and Industry, and Rep. Angelina Tan, Chair of the House Committee on Health, prior to its unanimous adoption by the House of Representatives.

Email: ernhil@yahoo.com

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