By Elijah Felice Rosales, May 29 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

ONE year after President Duterte signed the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) law, the government still has a lot of work to do to cut red tape in the bureaucracy and make transactions easier, according to business executives.

Business leaders polled by the BusinessMirror said the EODB law has yet to make an impact on their operations because its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) are not yet promulgated. As far as transactions with the government are concerned, they remain too burdensome.

American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Senior Advisor John D. Forbes said little has changed in the way permits and licenses are granted, even with the passage of a law intended to streamline them.

“We have the impression that little has changed so far. Red tape continues to be a heavy burden on business and citizens at all levels of government,” Forbes said in a text message.

He said the President urgently needs to appoint the director general of the Anti-Red Tape Authority, as the Arta chief has the sole authority to sign and issue the IRR.

Further, Forbes proposed that state agencies implement steps on their own that will reduce transaction time. This should include, among others, the transition to digital from manual processing and payment.

“However, we expect this to improve soon after the President appoints the Arta director general and issues the final IRR,” Forbes said.

“In addition to reducing processing steps and time, it is critical to transition from manual to digital processing and payment. We also look forward to agencies using the regulatory impact assessment methodology to justify regulations,” he added.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Maria Alegria Sibal-Limjoco said the business group has yet to assess the impact—if there is any—of the EODB law, but took note of the law’s lacking of an IRR.

European firms, on the other hand, are optimistic that doing business in the Philippines will improve over time. They said they appreciate efforts initiated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Arta in trying to streamline government procedures.

Dialogue with Arta

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Florian Gottein said the group attended the private sector dialogue last Friday with the Arta.

During the dialogue, anti-red tape authorities discussed with private sector representatives collaborative measures on improving doing business in the country. Gottein said European firms “see great value in this, and urge the government to expedite getting the Arta and the EODB law fully operational and implemented.”

“While we are aware that red tape is still a struggle for companies who are doing business in the Philippines, we also recognize the willingness of the DTI and the Arta to make government transactions for business easier and faster in the country,” Gottein said in a text message.

Duterte in May signed the EODB law that is aimed at cutting bureaucratic red tape and streamlining government transactions. Hopes to improve the country’s rating in competitiveness surveys, such as in the annual World Bank’s Doing Business report—wherein Manila fell to 124th among 190 economies in the 2019 cycle—are also pinned on the EODB law’s implementation.

The law will reduce transaction time for obtaining permits and licenses to three working days for simple procedures; seven working days for complex ones; and 20 working days for the highly technical.