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Opinion

Catching fire

VIRTUAL REALITY - Tony Lopez - The Philippine Star

The business permit (or mayor’s permit) in ten minutes paradigm is catching fire (pardon the pun, because fire extinguishers are among the requirement for such permits).

The need for processing business permits in 10 minutes has dawned upon our top officials. They want the country’s 1,500 town and city mayors to enforce it.

Why this sudden epiphany?  Two reasons: One, the economy is in severe slowdown. Two, the approval and trust ratings of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and VP Sara Duterte have fallen dramatically, in double digits.

The best way to arrest the economic slump and to recoup popularity ratings is by boosting economic activity. Any sense of movement on the economic front will convey the impression our top officials are doing their job or at least are not malingering in some exotic places.

You boost economic activity by making things easy for businessmen to do business. Hence, the need for business permits to be approved in 10 minutes.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary BenHur Abalos called me up late Tuesday night to assure me DILG will encourage mayors to ease up on doing business rules by honoring the 10-minute rule in permit processing. Right now, he says, two of some 17 major requirements for securing business permits are gone – barangay clearance and approval by the city or municipal council.

Separately, on Tuesday night, Secretary Ernesto V. Perez, the director general of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), wrote to tell me some LGUs have speeded up their business permit processing.

From 80 percent in its June 2023 survey, BBM’s Jr.’s approval rating fell 15 points to 65 percent in September. Duterte’s dropped 11 points, from 84 percent to 73 percent.

The economic slowdown was self-inflicted, by the government whose spending fell, by 7.1 percent in second quarter 2023 after expanding 10.9 percent in second quarter 2022. Now, 7.1 plus 10.9 is like a cutback in government by 18 percent. The government stopped paying its infra contractors. Infra has a budget of P718.4 billion in 2023. Government now accounts for 20 percent of GDP, according to Bangko Sentral Governor Eli Remolona.

Business permits in 10 minutes is the gold standard of countries that are favored by investors, local and foreign.  The No. 1 in ASEAN in Ease of Doing Business (EODB) is Singapore. In 2022, Singapore received $195 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI). The last or No. 6 in ASEAN Big 6 in EODB ranking is the Philippines. It received just $9.2 billion FDI in 2022, when Phl registered its highest economic growth in 47 years.

Secretary Perez clarified that “the 2020 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Survey assessed the country’s performance on this matter for the year 2019, just a year after the signing and implementation of Republic Act 11032, also known as the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Services Delivery Act. Unfortunately, the World Bank discontinued the report in 2020 due to data irregularities.”

On LGUs issuing business permits in just 10 minutes, Perez points out that “RA 11032 mandates LGUs to implement an electronic Business One-Stop Shop (EBOSS) with specific features.” These include:

• Accepting online or electronic application submissions

• Providing a gateway facility linked to courier services for those preferring hard copies

• Accepting online payments

• Electronically issuing tax bills/orders of payment

• Providing electronic versions of permits, licenses and clearances

To date, 518 out of 1,634 LGUs have reported the automation of their Business One-Stop Shops.

Perez says: “While no LGU currently achieves the 10-minute benchmark, it is worth noting that businesses can apply for or renew a business permit within 20 minutes in Navotas and 30 minutes in Valenzuela and Marikina City through their EBOSS portals.” Another 518 LGUs are being audited on their automation targets.

Perez says, “The Department of Information and Communications Technology, in coordination with the Authority and the Department of Trade and Industry, has developed and implemented the Philippine Business Hub. Through the portal accessible at business.gov.ph, the number of steps involved in the registration process has been significantly reduced from 13 to 6, and what previously took an average of 33 days can now be accomplished in just 3 days. As of May 2023, 22,534 corporations and 10,115 individuals have processed their registrations through the system.”

Perez acknowledges “not all LGUs have access to a stable internet connection, which hinders their full implementation of EBOSS. For this reason, the Authority, in coordination with relevant government agencies, has implemented reforms within the telecommunications sector, expediting the permitting process for the construction of shared passive telecommunications towers and fiber ducts.”

For towers, the permit requirements have been streamlined, reducing the number of permits from 13 to 8. Documentary requirements have decreased from 86 to 35, and the processing time has been significantly reduced from 241 working days to just 16 working days.

For fiber poles and facilities, the permit requirements have been simplified from 11 to 5. The number of documentary requirements has been reduced from 62 to 26, and the processing time has been drastically shortened from 868 working days to only 74 working days.

These reforms have been made permanent through the issuance of Executive Order 32 by the Office of the President. Through these efforts, we aim to enhance internet connectivity coverage in the country, enabling LGUs to implement digital solutions more effectively.

Perez advised me: “Should you encounter issues or difficulties in transacting with government agencies, you may file a complaint with ARTA through our email: [email protected] or our hotline 1-2782 (1-ARTA) and the Presidential Complaints Center through their hotline 8888.”

*      *      *

Email: [email protected]

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