The State Of Play: Philippine COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Philippine COVID-19 Contact Tracing

The COVID-19 contact tracing in the Philipines is challenging because LGUs use their own apps instead of a single national platform. As a result, our COVID-19 contract tracing effort lags as the virus infects more and more people. The Philippine government has recommended StaySafe.PH as the official COVID-19 contact tracing application in the Philippines a month into the pandemic. In fact, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) issued Resolution No. 85 emphasizing the mandatory adoption and use of StaySafe.PH in all national government agencies and LGUs. However, local government units (LGUs) and agencies are not using the app a year later.

Philippine COVID-19 Contact Tracing
Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) issued Resolution 85 on November 26, 2020,

According to contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong different agencies came up with their own apps without consulting with the National Task Force Against COVID-19 which, as a result, caused confusion and deterioration in the country’s contact tracing efforts. Meanwhile, Malacañang Palace also admits the government’s contact tracing system is weak.

What’s in the Works For COVID-19 Contact Tracing

There is an urgent need to modify the COVID-19 response systems because the data sharing between the Depart of Health’s central database and solution provides is lacking. Hoping to turn the tide, House Representative Lord Allan Jay Velasco introduced House Resolution No. 1536, which aims “to establish a unified national contact tracing protocol” to improve the country’s health emergency data monitoring system.

A solution provider turned over StaySafe.PH to the Philippine government only on March 29th, 2021, through the Interior and Local Government (DILG). DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said they aim to integrate StaySafe.PH completely with LGU apps in April 2021. This would mean that LGUs can still use their COVID-19 contact tracing apps, but their data will go to StaySafe.PH’s database. With a centralized database, the whole country will have a better overview and data for its COVID-19 contract tracing effort at a national scale.

Multisys Technologies Corporation developed StaySafe.PH. Other than its contact tracing feature, it’s also a social distancing system with health condition reporting. Its Founder and CEO David Almirol, Jr. said in December last year that they removed the app’s GPS and Bluetooth to ease the public’s fears about their privacy. Also, they made innovations and initiatives to ensure proper contact tracing with the consideration that not everyone owns a smartphone.

Once LGUs completely integrated their own apps with StaySafe.PH, the Philippine government should see improvements in its contact tracing effort.

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