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Remarks of USAid Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy 2nd at the 3rd annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum on Oct. 29, 2020.

This year’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum, organized by the US government, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, brings together senior government representatives, private sector CEOs, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations throughout the region and around the world to discuss trade promotion and investment aimed at increasing economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region. This event also underscores the close economic ties shared by the United States and the region, as well as our commitment to the region’s long-term, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Today’s event will explore how advancements in digital technology and connectivity are helping the private sector, governments, and civil society. Most importantly, we want to examine what opportunities exist to equip Indo-Pacific countries to pursue sustainable growth.

With some of the fastest connectivity rates in the world, the digital economy is growing at an unparalleled pace. Rapid technological advancements have created incredible opportunities, as well as new challenges, for the region. Today we will have a panel discussion on these challenges and opportunities in e-commerce and digital transformation in the Philippines.

The Philippine internet economy has significantly expanded from $2 billion in 2015, to $7 billion in 2019, that represents a 32-percent growth rate. This sector is estimated to more than triple to $25 billion in the next four years.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated the need for digital solutions, tools, and services, speeding up the transition towards a robust digital economy. Restrictions on the movement of people and business operations are changing the way Filipinos consume and pay for goods and services.

Recognizing the country’s potential, USAid has and will continue to work with the Philippine government to support its digital transformation. Our partnership with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) helped set up the National Retail Payments System, in laying the foundation for the country’s transition from a cash-heavy to a cash-light economy.

We also worked with BSP to accelerate digital payments in the country through the PESONet and InstaPay payment platforms. These reforms helped revolutionize payment transactions in the Philippines. A report by the Better Than Cash Alliance in 2019 revealed that average monthly digital payment transactions increased twenty-fold from 25 million in 2015 to 490 million by the end of 2018. In dollar terms, this translates to a quadrupling of digital payments from $6 billion in 2013 to $24 billion over the period.

Since 2013, USAid has also been using information technology to support the Bureau of International Revenue’s tax administration to improve business processes and automate key tax services. Over the past five years, the country saw a 13-fold increase in taxpayers filing their taxes online, using an upgraded electronic system for tax collection. Today, more than 85 percent of taxes are paid electronically via commercial banks, mobile payments and online payment portals.

This, alongside many other tax policy and tax administration reforms, has boosted tax revenues by 56 percent, enabling the Philippine government to conceptualize and implement new projects that benefit the Filipino people.

During the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, USAid also created digital platforms to help Filipino farmers and fisherfolk transport their produce to market. This addressed urgent food security needs in Metro Manila as well as in the provinces.

To complement this effort, USAid supported the National Economic and Development Authority to establish a Supply Chain Analytics Dashboard to inform government agencies and industry associations of ground-level issues impeding the flow of goods and inputs.

USAid has also been at the forefront of this digital transformation in the health sector.

Partnering with government, the private sector and civil society, we have supported a number of digital solutions, like the Integrated TB Information System, the Covid Kaya application, and the National Commodity Dashboard and Data Collect application to continue implementing USAid’s TB and family planning programs, as well as aide in the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. USAid also assisted the Department of Health Academy that has established an e-learning platform which has enhanced the knowledge and skills of tens of thousands health workers across the country in key areas like TB, family planning, and Covid-19.

In the education sector, USAid and the Department of Education (DepEd) have developed an e-resources platform that has become the backbone of the Philippine government’s Learning Continuity Plan amid the global pandemic.

USAid also helped develop DepEd’s Commons, an online education platform that provides public and private school teachers with e-books, video-based learning on various subjects, literacy-specific resources, and other e-resources for their teaching needs during the pandemic. We also helped establish a Professional Science Master’s program at Holy Angel University in Angeles City to boost national cybersecurity capacity.

Responding to the need of local government partners and business chambers, we facilitated the creation of online platforms that helped streamline processes for business registration, construction permitting, and access to land information, reducing costs and waiting times for the public.

We have also supported various initiatives to promote smart cities and enable technological advancements to improve service delivery. We are currently working with the Anti-Red Tape Authority and Department of Information and Communications Technology on improving internet connectivity and access in several urban centers.

These are just some of the more recent examples of USAid’s support for the Philippines’ digital transformation. Many of these projects were done in partnership with the private sector, including both American and Filipino technology companies.

I am pleased to share with you today that USAid will double down to provide assistance to not only increase digitization e-platforms in the Philippines but also expand our assistance in this space over the coming five years. The landscape is changing rapidly. We will continue to collaborate with the government and private sector partners on infrastructure development, e-government initiatives and cybersecurity protection.

USAid will also promote greater engagement of small and medium-sized enterprises in e-commerce, as well as continue pursuing digital interventions in our work involving health, education, governance, and the environment.

In closing, I wish to thank the Respond team, a project of USAid in partnership with the University of the Philippines Public Administration Research and Extension Services Foundation, Inc., for organizing this forum. True to its mandate, Respond is improving the trade and investment environment by reducing barriers to market entry, improving regulatory quality, and encouraging greater citizen participation in regulatory and policy reforms.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Lawrence Hardy 2nd

Quelle/Source: The Manila Times, 01.11.2020

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