The Electronic Commerce Act (ECA) or Republic Act No. 8792 was signed into law on 14 June 2000 by President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. The law gave legal recognition to electronic forms of data messages, documents, signatures, transactions, storage of information. It provided penalties for access of data without consent, piracy, hacking, and other violation. Provisions on DTI’s authority, under Section 29 of R.A. 8792, gave the DTI the authority to direct and supervise the promotion and development of e-commerce in the country with relevant government agencies.
The law was instrumental, in addition to other policies, in driving investments into the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. At that time, these investments were referred to as e-commerce back-office operations. It is known today as the Information Technology-Business Process Management (IT-BPM) sector, which recorded US$18.1 billion revenues in 2014.
Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council (ITECC)
On 12 July 2000, the Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council (ITECC) was formed through Executive Order No. 264 - “Establishing the Information Technology and E-commerce Council (ITECC) from the merger of the National Information Technology Council (NITC) and the Electronic Commerce Promotion Council (ECPC).” The ITECC was chaired by DTI Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II and Jaime Augusto Zobel De Ayala, as the private sector co-chair. The day after, 13 July 2000, the ECA’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) were issued.
In 2001, ITECC was restructured through the issuance on 25 May 2001 of Executive Order No. 18 - “Amending Certain Portions of Executive Order No. 264, Series of 2000.” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became the Chairperson with DTI Secretary Roxas and Presidential Adviser on International Competitiveness Ambassador Roberto R. Romulo as co-chairs for the government and the private sector, respectively.
ITECC committees were formed to address issues and gaps, help drive investments into the ICT outsourcing sector, and move towards e-government implementation as mandated under the E-Commerce Law. These committees were the Business Development Committee, e-Government Implementation Committee, Information Infrastructure Committee, Human Resource Development Committee, and the Legal and Regulatory Committee, each of which was co-chaired by government and private sector representatives. Supporting ITECC and its committees was an auxiliary Communications Committee in charge of advocacy and information dissemination. Under ITECC, various offices/units of DTI and other government agencies actively participated as members of its committees.
Various programs were undertaken by ITECC during this period. One of its biggest achievements was the creation of the E-Government Fund to support the implementation requirements as indicated in the E-Commerce Law and other related policies. Specifically, it is a source of funding for strategic ICT projects of government that are mission-critical, high-impact and cross-agency in nature.
ITECC was subsequently dissolved with the issuance on 20 July 2004 of Executive Order No. 334, “Abolishing the Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council and Transferring Its Budget, Assets, Personnel, Programs, and Projects to the Commission on Information and Communications Technology.”
Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT)
The Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) was created on 12 June 2004 through Executive Order No. 269- “Creating the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT).” CICT, which was attached to the Office of the President, was the "primary policy, planning, coordinating, implementing, regulating, and administrative entity of the executive branch of Government that will promote, develop, and regulate integrated and strategic ICT systems and reliable and cost-efficient communication facilities and services." Section 4(n) of the EO stipulated the CICT’s function to “harmonize, synchronize and coordinate with appropriate agencies all ICT and e-commerce policies, plans and programs.” Section 4(e) gave CICT the mandate to “provide an integrating framework and oversee the identification and prioritization of all e-government systems and applications as provided for in the Government Information Systems Plan; manage and/or administer the e-Government Fund, which shall be institutionalized and included in the proposed annual national budget.”
Under the administration of President Benigno C. Aquino III, CICT was moved under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and renamed as the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) (Executive Order No. 47, “Reorganizing, Renaming and Transferring the Commission on Information and Communications Technology and its Attached Agencies to the Department of Science and Technology, Directing the Implementation Thereof and for Other Purposes,” issued 23 June 2011).
Congressional Oversight Committee for the E-Commerce Law (COCEC)
The E-Commerce Act created the Congressional Oversight Committee for the E-Commerce Law (COCEC) to oversee and monitor the implementation of the law. It was activated in three (3) terms (2001-2004, 2005-2007, 2012-2013) and co-chaired by the Chairs of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce and the House Committee on Trade and Industry.
During the hearings conducted by COCEC from 2005 to 2006, the co-chairs reminded the executive branch that R.A. 8792 designated the DTI to lead the implementation of the law and this takes precedence over E.O. 269. The DTI Secretary tasked the Office of Policy Research (OPR) to handle matters related to e-commerce.
DTI – E-Commerce Office
On 06 March 2009, the E-Commerce Office was institutionalized (staffed with detailed personnel) through the issuance of Department Order (DO) No. 09-16. Its major functions were:
1. Formulation of policies and guidelines in support of e-commerce;
2. Formulation and implementation of plans and programs for further development and implementation of e-commerce in the country, in coordination with other DTI agencies, other government agencies, the private sector and other stakeholders;
3. Monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of e-commerce policies, plans, and programs; and
4. Active participation in local and international organizations related to e-commerce.
It is also the office designated by DTI to submit reports to COCEC and address e-commerce policy concerns as the need arises, in coordination with relevant government agencies and the private sector.
With the DTI Rationalization Plan, which was approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on 17 October 2013, the DO was automatically revoked. ECO was created as a Program Office lodged under the Sector Planning Bureau (SPB) (formerly referred to as the Office of Policy Research). It is currently headed by the SPB Director and supported by SPB personnel.
The E-Commerce Office abides by the following framework for the promotion of e-commerce in the Philippines.
Other Policy Issuances and Government Initiatives
In 2012, the Data Privacy Act (Republic Act No. 10173) and Cybercrime Law (Republic Act No. 10175) were enacted, strengthening confidentiality and penalty provisions under the E-Commerce Law.
In relation, several government agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through the ICTO, has set off the formulation of a National Broadband Plan (NBP) as a segment of its Philippine Digital Masterplan that aims to improve the country’s internet infrastructure (e.g., speed, access, connectivity, etc.).
Moreover, DOST initiated the Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil) Project, which aims to establish, upgrade and improve government ICT infrastructure, systems and ICT-related procedures to allow for integrated government operations.
• Under this project, ICTO identified priority systems that shall be integrated. These are the Business Permits and Licensing System (BPLS), Real Property Tax System, eBayad (Payment) System and eSerbisyo System under the e-Government Portal.
• Systems under the Community eCenter (CeC) Project will also be integrated under this environment. The iGovPhil Project requires the provision of seamless connectivity throughout the country from the national level down to the household level and with this, the government needs assistance from the Philippine Cable Television Association (PCTA) in providing last mile connectivity to the citizenry.
• The infrastructure includes the creation of data centers and layout of fiber optic networks to interconnect government offices and provide high-speed communication and sharing of tasks and data. Software include online tools, services and applications for use by government agencies and citizens.
Similarly, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) or the Central Bank of the Philippines has also put in place a new system to facilitate the country’s retail payments, which was deemed to be a significant contributor to the stability and efficiency of the Philippine financial system. The National Retail Payment System (NRPS) is geared to support the migration from cash- and check-based payments to electronic payment, with the aim to have a safer, more efficient and reliable payment system.
Relevant laws, rules and regulations, policies and guidelines were enacted and issued to support the implementation of the E-Commerce Act.