Bill seeking easier, faster online transactions pushed in Senate

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday said he has filed a bill seeking to make online transactions easier and faster as more Filipinos turn to the internet to conduct daily business amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In filing Senate Bill 1591 or the Internet Transactions Act, Gatchalian proposes to make buying, selling and other transactions faster, and to strengthen the country’s digital economy.

Gatchalian, the vice chairman of the Senate committee on Economic Affairs, said electronic commerce (eCommerce) provides consumers with time-saving options and access to swift delivery of goods and services.

It also presents value for money because from the seller’s perspective, set-up costs are lower and operating costs are kept at a minimum, he added.

Hence, it is paramount to enact a law that will resolve key concerns in the country’s eCommerce industry such as lack of trust; internet infrastructure; logistics infrastructure; payment mechanisms; lack of governing entity at the regional level that can fight cybercrime and settle cross-border disputes; difficulty in the process of returning product; taxation; and online consumer complaints.

The senator said the measure will pave the way for the establishment of a singular office that will carry out provisions of the bill, ensure the implementation of Republic Act 8792 or the Electronic Commerce Act of 2000, and be the focal point in the monitoring and implementation of the Philippine eCommerce roadmap.

“Kaakibat ng isang masigla, matatag, at tuloy-tuloy na pag-unlad ng eCommerce sa bansa ang pagkakaroon ng isang batas na poprotekta sa interes ng bawat Pilipinong mamimili at mangangalakal,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“Ako’y naniniwala na napapanahon na upang magkaroon tayo ng batas na magbibigay solusyon sa mga isyu at problema ukol sa industriya ng eCommerce,” he added.

Gatchalian admits that the Philippines’ e-commerce is still at its developing stage despite the country’s estimated 76 million active internet users and high internet penetration rate, longer hours spent daily on the internet, and very high social media penetration for population aged 13+.

Citing a study by Google and Temasek, the senator said the Philippine internet economy posted a Gross Merchandise Value of $7 billion in 2019. The value pales in comparison with those of Malaysia ($11 billion), Vietnam ($12 billion), Singapore ($12 billion), Thailand ($16 billion), and Indonesia ($40 billion).

The country’s eCommerce market remains at 1.6% of GDP.

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