By Rea Cu, May 27 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to ABS-CBN News

The Department of Finance (DOF) is eyeing to link at least five government agencies under the TradeNet platform on or before the end of 2019, as the government aims to strengthen the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) in the country.

Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran told reporters that the government wants at least five more agencies to be using the TradeNet platform this year, as it envisions to connect all 76 government agencies under the platform by 2022.

“At least five [government agencies] should be added before the end of the year. It’s just that before an agency goes online, there are things they have to do like issue a manual so that the private sector, individuals and corporations know what to do,” Beltran said.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is the only government agency connected under at the moment.

“One entity [which is PDEA] is already using it, [and that] all the chemical companies that import and export products go through it. All the 76 agencies, by 2022, they should all be connected or that agency will be removed from the list of regulators,” the finance official added.

Beltran, who is also the anti-red tape czar of the DOF, pointed out that some government agencies are slow to act on their respective connection to the trade facilitation platform as some are being bribed to sit on the completion of the documentary requirements needed to connect to the platform.

“The agency is slow [in connecting] because that’s understandable they earn from it. When you are empowered to implement a process and you sit on it, what do you do? If the person sitting on it because somebody offers a certain amount, which is what we want to eradicate the bribery part,” he said.

He also explained that the implementation of the EODB law will help more government agencies connect to the platform as it mandates a three day processing period for the transaction of simple documents.

Although the implementing rules and regulations for the EODB law has already been crafted, the implementation of EODB hobbled by the still pending appointment of the head of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta). The Arta head’s signature is needed for the IRR.

“We’ll just have to wait. The IRR is already finished, they are just waiting for someone to sign it. Once the head is appointed, it will be signed right away,” he added.

In March, the DOF said that the TradeNet platform is seen to address the rise in export and import data discrepancies, which reached 30 percent in 2018 from only 24.8 percent in 2016.

Based on an economic bulletin of the DOF, data collection should be improved to address the rise in the gaps, and, thus, enhance the capabilities of revenue collectors, as well as trade facilitation.

Data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Direction of Trade Statistics pointed out that total trade to the Philippines for 2018 amounted to $240.901 billion, $220.115 billion in 2017 and $193.130 billion in 2016.

Meanwhile, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that total trade for 2018 amounted to only $176.417 billion, $164.806 billion in 2017 and $141.514 billion in 2016.

This showed a discrepancy in trade data amounting to $64.485 billion for 2018, $55.309 billion in 2017, and $51.616 billion in 2016.

TradeNet is the government’s digital import and export permit platform which aims to link 76 trade regulatory government agencies through a common database, and shorten the processing of transactions for import and export clearances. It is also the Philippines connection to the Asean Single Window.