Independence

TODAY, we celebrate the 120th Independence Day of the country from the shackles of Spanish rule. More than a century after Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared our freedom and unfurled the Philippine flag at his house’s balcony in Kawit, Cavite, we continue to struggle with the feeling or even just a notion of real independence.

The current president bleeds every time he refers to sovereignty and independence in the light of criticisms from other nations or nationals. But he hesitates when an up and about hegemon like China physically grabs part of our territories and exclusive economic zones.

The convenient excuse of Duterte supporters is we cannot afford to go to war with China. But is war the only way forward to defend what’s ours? That’s a defeatist view from an administration that has the penchant to split moral hairs.

Nonetheless, we still have reason to celebrate because Congress passed a law that provides commonsensical solutions to our competitiveness problems, especially in investments and business.

President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11032 (Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018) on May 28, 2018. The law is bound to free us from the grip of bureaucratic red tape and corruption.

According to its principal author, Iloilo 4th district Rep. Ferjenel G. Biron, RA 11032 is the answer to the problem of bureaucratic red tape which drives away investors from the country.

“This law is revolutionary because now we have concrete parameters in addressing the problems of government efficiency,” Biron said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s (ANC) “Beyond Politics.”

Why revolutionary? Because it provides solutions to commonplace problems, something previous Congresses did not mind to solve until Biron took the cudgels and embraced the challenge.

Under the law, releasing of simple licenses should be done in three to five working days; seven to 10 days for complex licenses; and maximum of 20 days for highly technical licenses and permits.

An example of a simple transaction is applying for permits for a stall in a public market.

the law also created the Anti-Red Tape Authority under the Office of the President with the following functions:

-Plan, implement, and oversee national policy on anti-red tape and ease of doing business;

-Receive complaints, initiate investigations, and assist in the filing of cases related to anti-red tape;

-Recommend policies, processes, and systems to improve regulatory management of all local government units and national government agencies.

The new law covers “all local government units (LGUs), national government agencies (NGAs) and other government instrumentalities that provide service covering business and non-business related transactions.”

It mandates faster processing time for the following transactions:

-simple request/application from five (5) to three (3) working days;

-complex transactions from ten (10) to seven (7) working days; and

-highly technical application to twenty (20) working days.

It also aims to reduce the number of signatories from five (5) to three (3) signatures; and will recognize electronic signatures or pre-signed permit/license/certification in case the authorized signatory is on official leave.

The law also provides “automatic approval of permits and licenses in case the local government unit/national government agency (LGU/NGA) fails to approve/disapprove the application within the processing time, except for cases that pose danger to public health, public safety, public morals or to public policy, and for highly technical application such as natural resource extraction activities.”

Issuance of local business permits will also be streamlined through:

-Use of single or unified business application for local tax and clearances, building clearances, fire safety inspection certificates, etc.; which shall also be available online;

-Creation of one-stop business facilitation service (also referred to as business one-stop shop) on site and/or online in all cities and municipalities;

-Mandating all LGUs to automate their business permitting and licensing systems with the help of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT);

-Local clearances such as sanitary permits, environmental and agricultural clearances shall be issued together with the business permit;

-Business permits shall be valid for a period of one (1) year, and may be renewed within the first month of the year or anniversary date of the issuance of the permit;

-Barangay clearances shall be applied, issued and collected at the city/municipality; collection shall be remitted to the respective barangays.

Also, procedures in securing the Fire Safety Inspection Certificate (FSIC) will be streamlined by limiting the process to 10 working days and disallowing Bureau of Fire (BFP) personnel from selling or recommending any brand of fire extinguishers or equipment.

The law also mandates the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) “to create the Central Business Portal which shall serve as the central system to receive the application and capture application data involving business-related transactions; and the Philippine Business Databank (PDB) containing all data and information of registered business entities.”

By combining common sense and technology, Biron’s magnum opus (his second after the Cheaper Medicines Law) will indeed bring sweeping change to the country’s business landscape.

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