By Roy Stephen C. Canivel, September 5, 2020; Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta) has required all government agencies to accept digital payments for all permits, licensing and other fees as the agency sought to ease the burden of bureaucracy on both businesses and the general public.

Arta’s latest memorandum circular required all government agencies that provide services related to business and non-business transactions to accept digital payments, may these be through online banking or through digital wallets like GCash and PayMaya.

According to Memorandum Circular No. 2020-06, these electronic payments should be sent to the designated account of the government agency. The government agency should then issue an electronic official receipt or a scanned version of the official receipt.

“All government agencies are required to set up a payment gateway to accept digital payments for the acceptance of all permits, licensing and other fees,” according to the circular, which was digitally signed by Arta Director General Jeremiah Belgica on Sept. 1.

It also directed agencies to use a new service under the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which essentially secures online transactions and communications, making sure the data would not be tampered with in transit.

The service is called the Philippine National Public Key Infrastructure, which could be used to verify digital signatures in electronic documents and to send encrypted e-mails that only the intended recipient could open. The DICT released the guidelines for this service last April.

Moreover, the circular reminded fellow government agencies that the prescribed processing time was still in effect under Republic Act No. 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.

Among its other provisions, the law prescribes a strict timetable for government employees to process business and non-business applications. Government offices have three days, seven days or 20 days for processing applications, depending on how complex or technical the papers are. At most, this could be extended for another 20 days.

Otherwise, an application is deemed automatically approved and the government worker in charge with the documents liable for violating the law. The penalties include a six month suspension.

“The authority is mindful of the challenges that many government agencies are facing since many of them have adopted various work arrangements that reduced their available manpower such as a work-from-home arrangements, flexible working hours or the adoption of a skeleton workforce,” the circular read.

“However, it must be emphasized that this shall not be an excuse for government agencies to forego of the prescribed processing times, which remains to be in effect,” it said.

“Adherence to said periods will ensure that the government is able to deliver the much-needed services to the public during these trying times, subject to a one-time extension as allowed under the law,” it added.