LGUs should embrace Ease of Doing Business Act
FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel Abalos (The Freeman) - March 25, 2019 - 12:00am

Some quarters hailed the passage of Republic Act No. 11032, otherwise known as the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Act of 2018, as the panacea for all the miseries we’ve been going through in doing business in the country. Well, that remains to be seen.

For one, the Act’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) which were supposed to be released not later than October 22, 2018 is yet to be completed. It simply means it is five months overdue. This is not a good sign and is becoming a habit.  An Act as important as this should have been given top priority. Why?

To recall, the result of the 2019 “doing business” survey conducted by the World Bank showed that after going down by 18 ranks from 2015 to 2018 globally (that is from rank no. 95 down to 113), we were pushed further to the cellar at no. 124.

We are so critical about this delay not just because of this horrible ranking but because history tells us that sometimes, in this country, a law becomes a decade-old and, yet, IRR is yet to be seen. One big example is the Real Estate Investment Trust of 2009. Lapsed into law on December 17, 2009, today, the IRR is still non-existent. A law as important as this (because it will generate so much government revenue) should have been given top priority too. It should not be kept in the freezer.

Moreover, the law (RA No. 11032) mandates the local government units (LGUs) to establish Business One Stop Shop (BOSS) for their permitting and licensing system. Well, this is good. However, there is nothing new as far is this mandate is concerned.

To recall, in 2012, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) launched a "one-stop" registration program for would-be entrepreneurs. The first Philippine Business Registry (PBR) station was opened at the DTI’s Metro Manila office. They emphatically announced then that more will be opened during that year. As an essential element of the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan (PDP), the PBR was aimed at improving the local business environment. In a statement from Malacañang then, "The launch of the [PBR] represents a significant stride in our administration’s continuing efforts to streamline government processes and reduce red tape." “Furthermore, this system means a level playing field for investors and entrepreneurs, and both SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and corporations will find that it is now easier to set up shop in the Philippines," it then stressed. Then, it was envisioned that the process, which can be done at PBR stations or online, will take just 30 minutes instead of days.

To recall further, unknown to most of us, in 1992, R.A. 7470, otherwise known as the “National Economic Research and Business Assistance Center (NERBAC) of the Philippines Act of 1992” was enacted. Aside from providing prospective entrepreneurs/investors (both local and foreign) with the basic information on various business options that are open to them in accordance with the investment priorities of the Government, NERBAC (which is placed under the Department of Trade and Industry), was likewise tasked to provide a one-stop action center which shall facilitate the processing and documentation of all paper requirements necessary for the establishment of business enterprises in the country.

Whatever happened to these initiatives, we don’t know.  The survey, however, tells us that both didn’t work.

These were good initiatives though because, for one, the one-stop-shop concept is what makes Singapore on top or second in all surveys. Though these may not be that perfect, the fact is, like Singapore we have provided an avenue for prospective investors to go to. Supposedly, while this may not be enough to get the same ranking as Singapore, 124th may seem unjustifiable.

Let us not deceive ourselves though. We truly deserve this rank. Truth to tell, the national agencies are doing their best.  Sadly, in the permit and licensing process, the LGUs (that is from the Barangay to the City/Municipality level) are giving investors a lot of headaches. Moreover, on the building permit processing, the red tapes are just too much to bear. Worse, after going through those red tapes and have built the structures, investors have to beg for the occupancy permits.

Though still to be probed, foreign and local investors’ perception are unfortunately formed and is pulling us down. Even if BOSS units do exist, the situation may never change if the attitudes of our LGU executives remains the same.

Such change is necessary and requires a sense of urgency. They must change or be changed (on election day) while prospective investors are still losing their appetite. Procrastinate, they (investors) will soon vomit.

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