The Philippines will finally rollout its much-anticipated national ID program in 32 areas in October 12, officials said on Tuesday.

For the initial batch of enrollees, 5 million “heads of households” are being targeted in areas where active cases of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) are low, said Rosemarie Edillon, deputy director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“What we will be doing is actually a pre-registration. We’ll just be collecting on social demographics. There will be no taking of fingerprints or biometrics yet because these requires testing centers wherein there would be congregation (of people),” Edillon told reporters in a briefing.

“It might be too risky since it can be a place where the virus can easily spread,” she added.

Pre-registration means collecting personal information such as names, ages, and resident addresses by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). This will be done initially in 32 locations this year, ahead of actual enrollment, which will gradually expand to cover the entire archipelago next year, Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.

Participating locations for the preregistration are Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Isabela, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, Rizal, Albay, Camarines Sur, and Masbate in Luzon.

In the Visayas, preregistration will be held in Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Leyte, together with Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental and Tawi-Tawi, all in Mindanao.

“We want this initiative to be safe for the public, for those pre registering and also for the PSA personnel,” Edillon said. Local government units would assist in the undertaking.

Enacted in 2018, Republic Act No. 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act provides the legal basis for the national ID program, a key social project of the Duterte administration aimed at providing government clearer information on its citizens to better target public projects.

Among the harped benefits of uniform national ID is efficiency in locating beneficiaries of government subsidies such as the unconditional cash transfer under the tax reform law in 2017, and recently, the social amelioration program for 15.95 million poor families disadvantaged by the pandemic.

With a national ID, government had said assistance would quickly be given to intended recipients. Accelerating the project procurement was among the top orders of President Rodrigo Duterte to Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua when he took on the reins of NEDA from Ernesto Pernia, who resigned last April.

For the cardholders, the national ID is seen as a substitute to numerous government IDs, thereby making government transactions easier.

“We want to link this (ID) to their opening of bank accounts” as well, Edillon said, suggesting the national ID can serve as sole identification in getting formal credit access.

The ultimate target is to register each of the 108 million Filipinos to the national ID system by 2022.