EDITORIAL - Cutting red tape, again

The Philippine Star

National agencies and local government units are mandated to act on permit or license applications within three working days in the case of simple transactions, seven working days for complex transactions, and 20 working days for highly technical ones.

If the measures, embodied in an executive order to be issued by President Marcos, sound familiar, it is because the nation heard similar moves ordered by Rodrigo Duterte throughout his six years as president, as part of his campaign to cut red tape. In 2018, Duterte also signed into law Republic Act 11032, the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, which created the Anti-Red Tape Authority. ARTA’s role was meant to complement the efforts of the Office of the Ombudsman in fighting corruption. The law enhanced RA 9485, the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007.

Despite such laws and Duterte’s repeated threats to come down hard on those who could not or refused to cut red tape in their procedures, the country continued to lag behind most of its regional neighbors in ease of doing business.

This time, the Marcos EO will seek to promote ease of doing business and make the country more competitive within the region in attracting foreign direct investments. The EO sets up a so-called green lane for “strategic” or nationally significant or highly desirable investments. Again, the previous administration also set up express lanes or one-stop shops for investors. Will the new administration be able to make a difference?

Under the planned EO, the Department of Trade and Industry’s Board of Investments will create a technical working group for the implementation of the order. The BOI-Investment Assistance Service will be the single entry point for such strategic investments seeking green lane services.

People are not shrugging off the forthcoming EO as just the latest iteration of previous directives, mainly because the new administration is only into its sixth month and might do better. Regional competition has become even tougher as countries rush to recover from the pandemic, generate investments and jobs and avoid a recession. Making it easier to do business gains more urgency in this situation. The new administration should do a better job of cutting red tape and improving the business environment.

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