Philippine Senate Approves Data Privacy Act on 3rd Reading

The Philippine senate has approved, on third and final reading, the Senate Bill 2965, or the Data Privacy Act of 2011, which aims to strengthen the protection of personal data in information and communications systems in both government and private sectors.

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With the proposed law, government and private entities are mandated to protect the integrity, security and confidentiality of personal records. Sponsored by Sen. Edgardo Angara, and passed with 13 affirmative votes, the bill highlights the importance of comply with international data security standards. “We should lay down the basis for companies to be responsible in maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of digital data,” Angara said.

According to Angara, the proposed law is based on Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and Council, and is likewise at par with the APEC Information Privacy Framework standards.

Under the Data Privacy Act, a new office will be established as the National Privacy Commission, which will implement and enforce the regulations stipulated in the bill. The Commission shall seek a balance between ensuring the rights of a private person with the “need to speed up the utilization of the Internet.”

Angara further said that the bill seeks to protect Internet freedoms, while at the same time facilitating growth in the country’s ICT sector, noting that the bill will adhere to rigorous international standards pertaining to privacy. The aim is to attract more businesses to invest in IT-related business process outsourcing (BPO) activities in the country.

By establishing such a policy framework, we actually protect Internet freedoms while making sure the Web remains safe. In this way, we reduce the risk for true harm to be inflicted and heighten the opportunity for our digital space to be a truly productive and collaborative venue.

The Senate earlier passed the Cybercrime Prevention Act, as well as the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile expressed confidence that the passing of these three ICT related bills will strengthen the country’s position as a prime destination for IT investments, noting that the country has experienced an exodus of skilled workers and professionals in the field due to a lack of lucrative careers in the country. “It is essential to pass measures that are timely and those which adhere to international standards, at the same time, keeping up with the rapid changes in ICT sector,” Enrile said.

Once passed into law, the bill is expected to result in a projected revenue increase in IT-related BPO investments from 2011’s US$ 9 billion to US$ 25 billion by 2016. Employment in this sector can increase from about 1 million to 4 million jobs during the same period.

Right now, we are number one in voice services and call centers. And I think it’s very possible for us to become number one in data processing as well — meaning we can go into higher value-added IT services like engineering, finance, accounting, and healthcare, but only if we have an environment that is protective of data and information.

The Senate is confident that President Benigno Aquino III will sign the bill into law, noting the potential of ICT in bolstering the Philippine economy and helping its citizenry “leapfrog out of poverty.”