Bam files startup bill in Senate, sets inquiry on AI threat on BPO jobs

Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV has sponsored a measure that aims to give tax breaks and other forms of assistance to over 200,000 startups in the country, including a P1 billion venture fund where they can apply.

Sen. Bam Aquino with Sen. Sonny Angara during a Senate hearing

Sen. Bam Aquino with Sen. Sonny Angara during a Senate hearing

In his sponsorship speech for Senate Bill No. 1532, Aquino cited the local startups for finding solutions to the country’s problems.

“These are startups that provide unique and relevant solutions to our problems, from daily hassles, like finding a taxi during rush hour, to improving the delivery of healthcare, providing support for our farmers, and addressing unemployment,” said Aquino.

As the principal sponsor and author of the measure as chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, he said the “Innovative Startup Act” will reduce barriers that hamper the startups’ march to success.

“Let’s take this opportunity to empower our innovators and entrepreneurs with a heart for nation-building. Ipasa po natin ang Innovative Startup Act at himukin ang ating mga makabagong negosyante na lumikha ng mga solusyon para sa bayan,” he said.

Aquino said the measure will provide support innovative startups through financial subsidies like tax breaks and grants and ease of red tape in business registration. Start-ups will also get technical assistance and training programs that can help them flourish.

If enacted into law, startups will also benefit from free use of equipment, facilities, and other services from government agencies, such as testing and fabrication facilities. They will also get assistance from the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines for the patenting or licensing of their product.

Meanwhile, Aquino is also set to conduct a hearing into the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) to jobs in the country.

“Every job created for Filipinos is important. We have to guard against trends that will take jobs away from our countrymen,” he said.

“Gusto nating malaman kung ano ang epekto ng artificial intelligence sa employment, lalo na sa ating business process outsourcing (BPO) or call center sector,” he added.

Aquino has filed Senate Resolution No. 344, to conduct an inquiry on the government’s plan and initiatives to maximize the benefits of developments in AI and other emerging technologies.

The senator expressed alarm over the growing presence of chatbots and the emergence of systems capable of referring questions to human operators and learning from their responses.

“These systems use AI and are capable of performing the tasks of human employees, putting their livelihood at risk, especially in the call center industry,” said Aquino.

In 2016, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that 49 percent of all employment in the Philippines faces a high risk of automation in the next couple of decades.

Based on research conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), around $47 billion will be spent on AI-related applications globally by 2020, especially in banking, healthcare and retail sectors.

According to Jubert Daniel Alberto of IDC Philippines, the rise of AI will definitely affect the BPO industry that currently employs around 1.2 million Filipinos.

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