Duterte signs law cutting down red tape for business permits

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 29) — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law an act that aims to cut down red tape in government transactions, including processing applications for business permits, passports, and licenses.

The Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, or Republic Act 11032 signed Monday gives government agencies deadlines to approve applications and provides sanctions for delays and violations.

Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, who authored and sponsored the act, told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday that simple transactions at the local level should be processed within three days under the law. More complex transactions, such as building permits, are given seven days.

At the national government level, processing time for highly technical transactions — such as environmental certificates from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources — are capped at twenty days.

The law amends the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, or Republic Act 9485. It requires local government units to set up a Business One Stop Shop to facilitate applications.

"This is not only for businesses," Zubiri said. "This is also for driver's license, this is also for passport."

If processing takes longer than the prescribed time, and all required documents have been received, the application is deemed automatically approved, he added.

The law follows a two-strike policy. First-time violators, from the officer accepting the papers to the signing authority, can be suspended for up to six months. Second-time violators can be dismissed, disqualified from public office, and even face imprisonment between one to six years.

The law is likely to take effect in August as Duterte gave DTI officials 30 days to come up with implementing rules and regulations, Zubiri said.

He encouraged applicants to download and print the Ease of Doing Business briefer on the Department of Trade and Industry website.

New Anti-Red Tape Authority

Under the Ease of Doing Business Act, violators can be reported to an Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA). The body will be under the Office of the President.

"The President, very excited, kahapon (told us) mag-aappoint daw siya ng... baka ex-military. Basta sabi niya, diretso, walang taint of corruption," Zubiri told The Source.

[Translation: The President, very excited, (told us) yesterday he would appoint... a former military man, possibly. He said he has to be straight, with no taint of corruption.]

ARTA will have a policy and advisory body, the Ease of Doing Business and Anti-Red Tape Advisory Council (EODB/ARTAC). The latter is composed of the Interior, Trade and Finance secretaries, as well as two members from the private sector.

Trade Secretary Mon Lopez is expected to serve as EODB/ARTAC Chairman, and the ARTA Director General will be his Vice Chair.

Other provisions

The law also provides a Central Business Portal where that collects application data, as well as a Philippine Business Databank, which gives government agencies access to information to verify businesses.

In a statement the DTI noted that the databank means businesses do not have to submit the same documentary requirements as before.

Zubiri also maintained that government workers could not ask for more documents than what is initially required under the Citizen's Charter. He noted asking applicants to return with more papers was a "style" so officials could ask for money under the table to speed up transactions.

"If they say 1 to 20 documents, iyan po lamang ang puwede nila mahingi [that's all they can ask]. Under the law, one of the violations is asking for more documents," said Zubiri.

The senator also said that all application forms — which vary across local governments — would be standardized.

He stressed that under the law "officials are not allowed to sell, offer, recommend specific brands of fire extinguishers and other safety equipment." The provision was a response to complaints from businessmen that some Bureau of Fire Protection personnel require applicants to buy equipment like extinguishers and alarms from them before documents are cleared.

He also said that government operations should run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with no lunch breaks.

Watch the full interview with Zubiri here.