By Roy Stephen C. Canivel, February 11 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer

Image Credit to Department of Trade and Industry

The draft rules to implement the ease of doing business law were resent to Malacañang last month for further revisions, a setback in the campaign to cut excessive bureaucratic red tape.

This moves the release of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to beyond the deadline set by the law that was passed in May last year.

Under the law, the government only had 90 working days to release the IRR, which means the rules should have been released in October 2018.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez had said that the final draft was sent to Malacañang that month.

However, the IRR submitted to Malacañang in October still needed some revisions, according to Ernesto Perez, officer in charge of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), a newly created body meant to implement the law.

“So we resubmitted [it] on Jan. 8,” he told the Inquirer.

Business groups and other stakeholders have been clamoring for the urgent implementation of the law.

Known as the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, the law is meant to address the private sector’s complaints about red tape.

A nationwide consultation on the new draft is scheduled on Feb. 13, Perez said.

Among the proposed revisions involves giving government employees more leeway in case they need more time to process documents.

Government employees are put under a tight watch under the law, since they will need to finish applications in three to 20 days depending on how complex or technical the papers are.

Otherwise, they could face a six-month suspension for their first offenses under the law, and even more severe consequences, such as losing their retirement benefits and spending up to six years in prison.

The law only allows a one-time extension of 20 days.

If there is a need for that, the old rules require that the applicant be informed in writing.

In the new draft, government employees should be able to also text or e-mail the applicant, he said.

But finishing the IRR is just one of a number of hurdles facing ARTA. The law needs an ARTA director general before it could even be implemented.

So far, Duterte has not appointed a director general, although there are rumors that he prefers to name a retired military officer.

The new director general could approve the IRR, and even change them again, if necessary.

In ARTA’s first year, Perez said they requested P280 million from the Department of Budget and Management.

They also plan to have 250 workers for ARTA’s central and regional offices.