Philippine E-commerce Bill Nears Approval

MANILA (04/10/2000) - After languishing for months, the Philippines e-commerce bill finally moved forward last month, winning approval on first reading in both houses of Congress.

Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., principal author of the bill, said they were incorporating individual amendments to the bill, which is scheduled for second reading on April 15. If the Senate version and the House version pass on second reading, a bicameral conference committee will be organized, perhaps by May, to combine the two versions of the bill.

The unified bill will then be presented to the Senate floor for third and final reading. Magsaysay said he hopes that the bill will be passed in June before Congress takes a recess. If this doesn't happen, they'll have to start all over again in the next session.

Earlier, National Computer Center (NCC) director general Ike Seneres said the bill had already been certified as a priority bill.

Se¤eres had earlier met with former Capiz representative Mar Roxas, the current secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), who told Seneres that the Cabinet has decided to certify the proposed e-commerce law as a priority bill.

"I have no doubt that the bill will be passed because most of the senators see the importance of it, but the question really is when (will it be passed)," Seneres told Computerworld when asked about the chances of the bill getting approved.

Senate Bill 1902 or the E-Commerce Act, is a consolidation of different bills seeking the promotion and utilization of e-commerce in the country. The bill seeks to provide legal recognition to digital documents, signatures, and contracts. The bill also provides for penalties against hacking and other forms of electronic fraud.

SB 1902 is a replacement for SB 1523, after Senator Raul Roco requested the bill to be replaced by one that hews more closely to the model law supported by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Laws UNCITRAL).

Among its provisions, the bill seeks:

-- to give legal recognition to data messages; -- to allow the acceptance of electronic signatures; -- to set the terms for the use of data messages as original documents; and -- allow the use of data messages as evidence in court.

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