by Peachy Vibal-Guioguio
media.Xchange President & The Philippine Star Columnist 

We travelled to Beijing in 2016 and were so impressed by their Internet of Things (IoT). Strolling along the sidewalk of this cosmopolitan city, I spotted a street vendor selling my favorite lychee fruit shake and decided to get one. When I was about to pay the old woman in cash, she fished out from her pocket her smartphone and showed me a QR code on its screen. It was not difficult, despite the language barrier, to comprehend that she was asking if I had a QR code to pay for my purchase. Indeed, China is really ahead of e-cash technology that even their ambulant vendors were already using it at that time  while there I was, still have yet to learn how to download this ubiquitous app which has become a common thing in this country of 1.2 billion people.

Today, in the Philippines, the information technology-based QR (quick response) code has gotten a lot of attention and actual use for COVID-19 tracing. Last week, the Province of Bataan through its Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) has passed a resolution requiring the use of quick response (QR) codes for those who would enter the province. Governor Albert Garcia, who is also the provincial IATF chair, said in press reports that the QR code system would be implemented beginning October 1 in all entry points in the province to stop the surge of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). “This is to monitor all those entering the province and maintain the safety not only of authorized persons outside residence (APOR), returning overseas Filipino workers (ROF) and locally-stranded individuals (LSI) but also their families,” Garcia emphasized.

Similarly, the Pasay City government has developed a Quick Response (QR) code system to bolster its contract tracing efforts amid the prevailing health crisis. In a press statement, Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano said the QR code technology was designed to provide a real-time update of information and data to the city’s Contact Tracing Command Center (CTCC), whenever an individual enters an establishment. “Some weeks ago, we launched our Contact Tracing Command Center to systematize and boost our efforts in gathering information about contacts or people that may have come in contact with Covid-19 patients,” Calixto-Rubiano said. 

Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian has also embraced QR as a defense against COVID as he puts into operation the Valenzuela Tracing (ValTrace) Application under City Ordinance No. 783, Series of 2020 which allows Valenzuela and non-Valenzuela residents to register and download their own QR codes to be presented when entering establishments. “Mindful of the foregoing predicament, beginning Oct. 5, 2020, all indoor/enclosed business establishments are mandated to implement the ’No QR Code/No Entry’ policy in their respective business establishments,” he said.

So, what exactly is QR for our readers who may not be aware of the Internet based application and who may not have been familiar with its use. I, as mentioned earlier, have seen it widely used during a trip to Beijing, as the humblest of street vendors use it for business transactions – no contact, no fuss with change for bills, no receipt as everything is recorded electronically.

The QR code scanning here in Metro Manila and other places is less sophisticated but operates on the same principle of no-contact interaction. The local version is basically for contact tracing in case you have come into contact with someone suspected of having the COVID-19 virus or for purposes of registering as you enter the shopping malls or restaurants which oftentimes is done manually through a logbook that you write on your name, address, e-mail, etc.  With the fact that the COVID-19 virus could stick for some time on pen and paper, you have made yourself vulnerable to virus infection without knowing it. Hence, QR code scanning is now fast becoming the new norm.

Acquiring your QR code is easy and having one could save you the delay and frustration with city or provincial checkpoints which would be around for a long while as the numbers of infection continue to rise in the Philippines. So let’s use the Bataan example to illustrate how you can get one: (1) Download the Get-Pass Application (or similar variants for your city/ province) available in Google Play at App Store and sign up; (2) Answer health declaration form; (3) Click calendar and go to the travel authorization section; (4) Answer questions on travel appointment; and (5) Save or print the QR Code with the date of travel and appointment number. To those who have no smartphones, the QR code can be accessed through the website www.getpass.com. Travelers to Bataan have to present the QR code at the checkpoint upon entering the province along with other requirements like employment certificate and personal identification. For contact tracing purposes, those using the QR code system and who have filled out the contact tracing form will not be required to fill out another form anymore, when they enter any establishment. Once operational, there will be a database of the individual’s visited places prior to being exposed to or diagnosed with Covid-19.

And there is more to QR as the threat of the pandemic remains well into next year and hence, becoming “de riguer” in the way we live, leisure, shop and do business such as what I have seen in Beijing. For example, more banks are launching payment facilities using quick response (QR) codes as the government ramps up efforts to transform the Philippines into a cash-light instead of cash-heavy economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to BSP Assistant Governor Iluminada Sicat, who said 12 more BSP-supervised financial institutions are expected to launch their QR payment facility in 2020, further expanding the line up to about 20 participants. 

So if you haven’t QR’d yet, maybe it’s time to consider it especially for travel to and from Metro Manila as having your own QR code would just be as essential as having your driver’s license especially with all those checkpoints around as the government itself through the tech company DevCon Philippines and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is coming up with a  “rapid pass system” envisioned to lessen the congestion created by checkpoints and vehicle inspections during the imposed Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). 

Peachy Vibal – Guioguio is a PR strategist who has lead communications departments in GMA Network, ABS-CBN, and TV5. She enjoys long drives, taking scenic routes, and finds a thrill going wherever she pleases behind a wheel. She has yet to learn how to replace a flat tire.

Originally Published on Wheels PH.