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Senate OKs amendments to anti-red tape law

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate has approved on third and final reading the amendment of the Anti-Red Tape Act to further promote transparency in public transactions with the government.

Senate Bill 1311, or the Expanded Anti-Red Tape Act, was approved with a vote of 17-0 by the Senate last Tuesday.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship who sponsored the measure, said the bill was crafted in response to the clamor of the business sector and government agencies to improve ease of doing business in the country and make it competitive and compliant with global business practices and standards.

Authored by Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Joel Villanueva, the bill sets a new prescribed period for both national and local government offices in processing applications.

The processing should be completed within three working days for simple transactions and seven working days for complex transactions from the time the application was received.

For highly technical applications or such cases where extraordinary due diligence in reviewing the qualifications and merits of an application for clearances, accreditation and/or licenses issued by government agencies, the bill prescribes a processing time no longer than 20 working days.

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For the Fire Safety Inspection Certificate, issuance shall not be longer than 10 working days.

If the national or local government agency fails to act on the application for license, clearance or permit after the prescribed processing period has lapsed, then the application “shall be deemed approved.” 

Zubiri said stiffer penalties were also included in the bill for any individual found violating the provisions of the law.

The violations include refusal to accept application, failure to act on the application, failure to attend to clients within agency premises prior to the end of official working hours, failure to render frontline services or give the client a written notice on the disapproval of an application and imposition of irrelevant requirements other than those listed in the Citizen’s Charter of the agency. 

For the first offense, the bill provides for the imposition of 30 days suspension without pay for the erring personnel.

For the second offense, the penalty is six months suspension without pay and for the third offense, one to six years imprisonment, dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public service and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is mandated to establish a cloud-native central business portal or other similar technology, to act as a central system that would receive applications and capture application data from business entities nationwide. 

The central business portal would allow government agencies like the DICT, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other national and local government agencies “to receive and process applications, as well as to issue digitally signed business license documents to applicants.”

Under the bill, the Competitiveness Bureau under the DTI would be called the Business Anti-Red Tape and Competitiveness Bureau, which is tasked to complement the functions of the Civil Service Commission in implementing the expanded anti-red tape act.

“These reforms will introduce more economic activities that will increase opportunities and incomes of business firms, all types of entrepreneurs and their employees,” Zubiri said. 

“With ASEAN economic integration, we should seriously face these challenges. I believe this act will enable our country to grow local businesses and invite more foreign businesses to set up factories and offices here,” he added.

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