Sen. Bong Go (second from left) as he appears in photo with local government officials of Eastern Samar led by Gov. Ben Evardone at the launch of the province’s Malasakit Center in Borongan City. (Photo courtesy by People’s Journal)

THE call of Sen. Bong Go to government departments and agencies to avail of new information and communication technologies is not only part of the solution to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus but will curb corruption in the government bureaucracy.

The other ultimate advantage is efficiency in government service.

Information technology had been with us but sadly you can count on your left-hand fingers the number of government agencies that migrated their systems from the traditional person-to-person to no-contact transactions.

A good example of an excellent government online transaction is the application and processing of registrations and issuance of certifications of government contractors with the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PHILGEPS) of the Department of Budget and Management.

Everything is done through the internet and just about the only time an applicant leaves office or home is to pay the registration fee with any Land Bank branch. Registration Certificates can be downloaded and printed by applicants.

For years we had been hearing of virtual transaction projects in graft-prone agencies like the Bureau of Custom and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. But for reasons which can only be attributed to the perpetuation of graft this plan never saw fruition. Personal negotiations are the order of the day.

A classic example is the tax assessment of ABS CBN which ran into billions but later left the government with a picayune because person-to-person negotiations ended up with a “happy compromise” agreement.

With the digital age, online platforms in the government should have been developed. Call it e-governance.

Private companies have gone a long way. Payments of accounts are done via bank transfers which one can do at home. PhilamLife, the leading insurance company in the country, successfully markets its products to clients via online marketing.

Perhaps Sen. Bong Go should nudge the Department of Information and Communications Technology from virtual anonymity and put this to the task to make a digital template that would address the requirement and nuances of each department in the government. The Senator hits several targets starting with his primary objective of reducing person-to-person contact which would effectively control the spread of coronavirus.

Online transactions will likewise curb corruption and increase the efficiency of government service.

The three additional commandments

The wellspring wherefrom the social amelioration fund comes from is not forever limitless. Make no mistake of that. The traditional sources of funds are individual and corporate taxes, customs tariffs, fees, income from government-run corporations among them Pagcor, to name a few.

In his pre-SONA report to the nation the head of the Economic Cluster of the Duterte government, Finance Sec. Sonny Dominguez, detailed to us how vibrant was the growth of the country’s economy and how the coronavirus disease (Covid)-19) pandemic hit us in the solar plexus.

This is not unique to the Philippines, it is worse in other countries and none, no matter how advance is the economy, is spared from the plague.

We took note of the fact however that a number of countries had revved up the engine of growth and revived various levels of industries. We are all in the same predicament. Millions have lost their jobs with the closures of businesses, cessation of construction activities and transport systems come to a halt.

After months of having to grapple with the new coronavirus we have learned that this will not go away just yet but there are means on how to mitigate it as demonstrated by other countries that have now revived their industries.

It takes a very tiny bit of discipline and obedience to uncomplicated protocols.

There are only three commandments to follow.

Wearing of masks, social distancing, and washing of hands with soap or disinfecting it with alcohol will, to a very significant degree, prevent infection and control the spread of the virus. In short, it only takes these three modes of discipline and we get the engines of development going, saving or getting back our jobs, resuming our mobility, and depriving the virus of its host.

Secretary Dominguez stressed the obvious: under ECQ, GCQ. MGCQ the deadly virus will be there. If there are means to control it, then we have to enforce these.  

Thus, factories and other businesses are allowed to open, construction of government and private projects to resume to maintain a delicate balance of economy and health which are both vital to the survival of the nation as people get employed.

We cannot sustain a welfare state.

In the meantime, with our government coffers nearing depletion, the next option available to us is to borrow money. The Philippines is lucky that under the Duterte government, the growth of the economy was at its peak borne by the sustained gross domestic product. All the major credit rating agencies, Fitch, S&P, Moody’s gave the Philippine an unprecedented BBB rating. In other words, it is investment grade and stable. Just last month Japan Credit Rating Agency rated the country A-minus.

Ratings have significant impacts on any country and most especially for the Philippines under this time of crisis. These guarantee the stability of the economy, the capacity to settle loans and stable economic policies. These are important factors for investors and money lenders.

And for the Philippines, these translate to low or concessional rates with a long grace period to pay on loans it may have to avail of to keep the health of the nation and to rev the engines of its industries going.

The success of the economic goals and health of every Filipino is dependent on our adherence to the 3 added Commandments:

  1. Thou shall wear your face mask properly by covering your nose and mouth.
  2. Thou shall wash your hand with soap or disinfect with alcohol whenever necessary.
  3. Thou shall keep a distance of at least one meter from the nearest person when you are in a crowd of two or more persons.

You must keep these commandments until a vaccine is available. (ia/SPH)