Philippines introduces smart clearance cards

Keen on providing faster and more efficient services to the public, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recently introduced the NBI clearance renewal card system. Powered by smart card technology, this system will serve as the forerunner of a fully-automated, self-serviced NBI clearance renewal system.

The rollout of the NBI clearance card-an important identity document-marks the second phase of the bureau’s clearance renewal computerization program. Now ready to enter its third and final phase, the program aims to hasten the clearance renewal process and decongest NBI offices, particularly its headquarters on Taft Avenue, Manila where thousands of applicants troop to each day to secure NBI clearances.

“With the NBI cards ushering in the third and final stage of the computerization project, we are optimistic that we can further clear the bureau’s offices not only of applicants for NBI clearance, but of fixers as well,” MegaData Corporation president and chief executive officer Raffy Garcia III told members of the press. MegaData Corporation has been the computerization contractor of the NBI since 1977.

Prior to the implementation of the NBI clearance computerization project, about 30,000 applicants used to queue at the NBI compound in Manila each day to apply for or renew their clearances.

NBI officials reported that with the opening of clearance issuance kiosks, which marked the initial phase of the bureau’s computerization program, human traffic at the NBI compound was slashed to 4,000 per day. Early this year, the NBI deployed several clearance issuance units in Metro Manila shopping centres including Park Square, Ever Gotesco, SM Mega Mall, and the Tutuban Mall to accommodate applicants.

Having seen the convenience the system offered to both the bureau and the public, NBI director General Reynaldo Wycoco disclosed that three more kiosks will be deployed in the provinces before the end of the month. NBI offices in San Fernando City, Cebu and Davao will have their own kiosks to augment their manual clearance renewal process.

According to Wycoco, the NBI clearance renewal card is based on smart-card technology. It is ideal for those who periodically renew their NBI clearances, or who want to be assured that they can renew their NBI clearance anytime.

The size of a regular ATM card, the NBI card is small enough to fit into anyone’s pocket. The embedded biometrics security feature in the card’s smart chip offers guaranteed security, while its plastic casing provides extra durability.

All basic information about the card holder like his name, address, date of birth and so on, as well as his NBI records including clearance date and place of issue, registry number and photo number are contained in the card.

“Since the vital information are found in the card, applicants need not bring their old paper clearances to secure a new one,” said Wycoco. “All they need to do is to insert their NBI card in the allocated slot in our kiosks, pay the corresponding transaction fee to our clerks, and, in a matter of minutes, claim their new clearance.”

NBI cards are available at the bureau’s main office in Manila and in all NBI kiosk outlets. Holders of a new NBI clearance can instantly get the NBI card for another fee.

“Every NBI clearance applicant is encouraged to get the NBI card, because eventually, all NBI offices and kiosks will use the card for the clearance renewal process,” explained MegaData’s Garcia. The cards, he added, will serve as the transition tool that will enable the NBI to move from “manned kiosks” to “self-service, vendor-machine-type kiosks.”

“The vision of the NBI as far as the clearance renewal computerization program is concerned, is to have 50 fully automated, unmanned kiosks which are capable, not only of dispensing clearances, but of receiving payments as well. This way, we need not assign clerks in our kiosk outlets,” Wycoco said.

This third and final phase of the clearance renewal computerization project is expected to be rolled out by December 2002.