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Fortifying Cyber Cooperation Towards Digital Security
January 17, 2024, 1:00 PM
Makati City


To our colleagues in the government, partners from the academe, as well as private and civil society organizations, cyber experts and the rest of the cybersecurity community, and our dear participants, a pleasant afternoon to all.

Assalamu alaikum wa Raḥmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

I am honored to deliver this keynote for the second day of this very timely and relevant two-day conference. As you may all know, the Administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. puts a premium on the country’s digital transformation as a means to achieve our national development goals.

In his latest State of the Nation Address, PBBM underscored that “digitalization is the call of today” and that the “government must fully embrace digitalization to provide better service to the people.” In June of last year, PBBM also signed Executive Order No. 29, propelling our digital transformation advocacy forward by directing the full adoption of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) in government agencies to improve bureaucratic efficiency and ensure the efficient delivery of quality services to the public.

Indeed, it is our responsibility to maximize the transformative potential of digital technology to ensure greater efficiency in the delivery of public services and ultimately uplift the lives of our fellow Filipinos. Thus, we, at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), are moving full speed ahead in digitally transforming our bureaucracy and our country.

Towards this mission, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will receive a total of Php 6.9 billion budget for new appropriations under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 General Appropriations Act. And in fact, as we seek to apply the whole-of-government approach to digital transformation, we proposed a total of Php 38.7 billion to fund various ICT projects across the bureaucracy this 2024. This increased by 60.6 percent from its Php 24.93 billion budget in 2023.

Speaking from a budget perspective, we have fully embraced and are transitioning to digitalization as we are determined to have a more efficient and effective Public Financial Management (PFM) system in the country. In fact, digital transformation is at the core of the Department’s reform agenda, especially as this has always been an advocacy of mine.

Following this, please allow me to share with you a few of our digitalization initiatives at the Department.

First and foremost, we will be launching our Digital Transformation Roadmap—our guiding document—which promotes data governance and digitalization in fiscal-related government processes. This roadmap has a dual transformation feature that will future-proof the entire bureaucracy by institutionalizing all the digital reforms spearheaded by the DBM. 

In this roadmap, cybersecurity remains a paramount concern across various projects and initiatives from software development to infrastructure deployment. For software projects, implementing secure coding practices, regular code audits, and vulnerability assessments fortifies applications against potential threats. Meanwhile, employing strong access controls, encryption protocols, and intrusion detection systems adds layers of defense in infrastructure projects.

We also have Project TINA, or the Technical Innovations in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) Application Project, which will resolve pain points across our Budget and Management Bureaus, boost operational efficiency, and actively promote the digital evolution of the NEP Application. Through this project, we also aim to create a unified system that will automate the budget process between the Executive and the Legislative Branches of the national government.

Meanwhile, Project Marissa provides an innovative strategy that uses blockchain technology to enhance the management of critical data such as allotment release orders and other DBM records in public finances. Among its features are document tokenization to ensure immutability, tamper-proofing, and reliable digital history; a hybrid blockchain ecosystem to address both privacy and transparency needs; a user-friendly interface for document verification and tracking; and a public-facing portal on the public blockchain to facilitate independent verification and promote citizens’ trust.

We are also reviving Project DIME or the Digital Information for Monitoring and Evaluation Project, a game-changing initiative that utilizes existing technologies such as satellites, drones, and geotagging to compare fund utilization with actual project completion status for monitoring and evaluation of government projects while encouraging citizen dialogue. This is especially useful for far-flung areas to ensure that infrastructure development is realized and adequate public service is delivered throughout the country.

Further, in recognition of the potential of data analytics in shaping strategic decision-making and fostering innovation, we have the Budget Data Analytics Managed Services Project, which includes the creation of four vital government dashboards. These will focus on monitoring and analysis of the 8-point Socioeconomic Agenda; inflation for food and non-food items; Aggregate Allotment per Departments, Agencies, and Operating Units; and financial performance, operational efficiency, and compliance of Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations.

On a bigger scale, we will harmonize the policies and guidelines in the IT activities of the government through Project MITHI, or the Medium-term Information & Communications Technology Harmonization Initiative, in partnership with the DICT and the National Economic and Development Authority.

Likewise, we have been continuously lobbying and working for the passage of the Progressive Budgeting for Better and Modernized Governance or PBBM Governance Bill, which aims to streamline the processes of delivering programs and services across all government offices through the IFMIS. This will institutionalize the Cash Budgeting System, alongside the Budget and Treasury Management System (BTMS) which shall serve as a centralized database for all government financial operations from purchase to payment, and in turn, allow for real-time transaction monitoring.

To ensure the safe and seamless implementation of these initiatives, our Information and Communications Technology Group, headed by Undersecretary and Chief Information Officer Maria Francesca Del Rosario, has taken great strides to complement these with cybersecurity measures. These include the creation of a Zero-Trust Cybersecurity Framework, Data Loss Prevention, Identity and Access Management, Mobile Device Management, and Disaster Recovery Planning. And, I am very proud to share that we are the first in the bureaucracy to have an Information Security Division which will oversee our information security, cybersecurity, and IT risk management programs based on international standards and industry-accepted information security and risk management frameworks.

Further, we strongly support DICT’s National Cybersecurity Plan 2023 to 2028, which emphasizes a risk-based approach and focuses on identifying individual Critical Information Infrastructures based on their significance and potential economic impact if breached.

For DBM, our ICT Group has also strategically allocated 20.92 percent of the Department’s ICT budget to cybersecurity projects, which is notably even higher than the 10 percent internationally recommended standard based on the report published by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services.

All of these initiatives and achievements would not also be possible without the support of international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which provided us with technical assistance and benchmarking of best practices by other countries.

And so, before I end, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines for co-hosting this conference. The success of this event is proof that the ever-increasing people-to-people ties between Canada and the Philippines have been strengthened throughout our 75 years of diplomatic relationship. And we hope to further strengthen this long-standing friendship, especially in the areas of digitalization and economic development.

In today’s fast-paced, modern, and interconnected world, it is inevitable that we fortify cyber cooperation toward digital security—as the title of this event suggests. And I believe today’s conference is a strong testament to our commitment to doing such, especially seeing astounding participation from different sectors of society, including members from the international community.

We are not oblivious to the challenges that we have, and we are well aware that we still have a long way to go to achieve our dream of digitally transforming our country. But as the famous saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Hence, I call on each and every one of you to take a step forward, maximize this opportunity, and enrich this avenue by sharing your knowledge and insights.

Together, let us explore innovative solutions and ensure a digitally secure Philippines.

Thank you very much. Wabillahi Tawfiq Wal Hidaya, Wasalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu.