Biz leaders, DTI support new bill to grow PH’s digital economy

Johanna O. Bajenting

AS MORE consumers turn to online platforms for their daily transactions under the new normal, business leaders in Cebu called for a more systematic approach to help sellers and consumers navigate the digital payment process.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Felix Taguiam told SunStar Cebu that going online is the way to go to lessen the exposure to Covid-19.

“Businesses have to adapt to the new norm. The way to go is e-commerce and the internet of things. Businessmen have to adapt to technology,” he said.

Senator Win Gatchalian, on June 10, filed the Internet Transactions Act to make transactions easier and faster, and strengthen the country’s digital economy.

According to a press release, the vice chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs filed Senate Bill (SB) 1591 or the proposed Internet Transactions Act, to make buying, selling and other transactions faster with just a tap of a finger.

Gatchalian said e-commerce 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.

Gatchalian said the Philippines’ e-commerce is still at its developing stage despite its estimated 76 million active internet users and high internet penetration rate of 71 percent vis-a-vis the global average of 54 percent, longer hours spent daily on the internet at 10 hours vis-a-vis a global average of six hours and 42 minutes, and high social media penetration for population aged 13+, which is 99 percent vis-a-vis the 59 percent global average.

The country’s e-commerce market remains at 1.6 percent of the gross domestic product.

For business to survive, Taguiam said it needs to be online.

But he warned that business owners have to be cautious.

“There are unscrupulous hackers and spammers who are creating havoc to the financial sector and consumers alike,” he said.

Steven Yu, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the regulation of the e-commerce transactions is inevitable, and the establishment of a regulatory body seemed apt.

“However, if these can be harmonized with other digital bills, so much the better. The goal is to be able to monitor, but the processes should be simpler and easier to comply with so as to encourage individuals and companies to grow this market,” he said.

Key concerns

According to Gatchalian, it is paramount to enact SB 1591 to resolve key concerns in the country’s e-commerce 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 products, taxation and online consumer complaints.

The Internet Transactions Act will also pave the way for the establishment of a singular office that will be given the responsibility of carrying out the provisions of this 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 e-commerce roadmap.

The Department of Trade and Industry, meanwhile, said it is committed to pushing for e-commerce growth by supporting measures that will strengthen the e-commerce law in the Philippines. In Congress, the bill is filed under House Bill (HB) 6122.

“To strengthen e-commerce in the country, the DTI is supporting the various bills related to e-commerce, particularly HB 6122 or the ‘Internet Transactions Act’ authored by Trade Committee Chair Rep. Wes Gatchalian,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

HB 6122 seeks to establish an eCommerce Bureau that will, among others, focus on the following: promoting the development of e-commerce in the country by building trust between sellers and consumers, stronger online consumer protection, safer e-payment gateways, easier online business registration, and formulating other policies and programs to increase the number of online merchants and consumers.