By Butch Fernandez and Jovee Marie de la Cruz, October 14, 2020; Business Mirror

THE Senate unanimously passed on third reading Wednesday remedial legislation empowering President Duterte, in times of national emergency, to fast-track release of national and local permits, licenses and certifications.

Voting 23-0, senators endorsed early enactment of Senate Bill 1844 that Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri filed to complement the Duterte administration’s Bayanihan 2 provisions extending the President’s authority beyond the current pandemic “and any national emergency that the country might face in the future.”

Joining Zubiri as coauthors of SB 1844 were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Zubiri envisions that the enabling legislation, once enacted into law, will “authorize the President, during the time of national emergency, to suspend the requirements for national and local permits, licenses and certifications, and to streamline and expedite the process for the issuance of the same.”

Zubiri was a main author of the anti-red tape law passed earlier, and when Duterte recently lamented that existing legislation might not be enough to keep red tape from stifling recovery of businesses badly hit by the pandemic, he offered to sponsor a measure complementing the provisions in Bayanihan 2.

“While this may be a small step, it surely can create a significant impact on all enterprises,” Zubiri said, noting that SB 1844 shall cover all agencies of the Executive branch, including departments, bureaus, offices, commissions, boards, councils; government instrumentalities, government-owned and -controlled corporations and local government units.

Under the measure, the President shall have the authority to accelerate and streamline regulatory processes and procedures for new and pending applications and renewals of permits, licenses, clearances, certifications or authorizations, including fixing or shortening the periods provided for under existing laws, regulations, issuances and ordinances.

Moreover, Zubiri said the legislation authorizes the President to suspend or waive the requirements in securing such permits, licenses, clearances, certifications or authorizations.

It further provides that the President, in consultation with or upon recommendation of affected government agencies, may prescribe to be permanent the streamlined regulatory processes and procedures, and the suspension or waiver of the requirements in securing permits, licenses, clearances, and certifications or authorizations.

Zubiri pointed out that SBN 1844 reiterates the power of the President given by the Constitution to remove or suspend any government official or employee as provided under the measure.

The remedial legislation, he added, is also expected to “ease the already heavy burden of the businesses that were heavily hit and continuously being beaten by the gargantuan effects of the pandemic.”

Zubiri assured that “this is a good accompanying measure to the ease of doing business. I think a lot of good will come out of this and I believe that with this, the President will be emboldened to remove more people for their ineptitude and incompetence.”

House version

The leadership of the House of Representatives on Wednesday said it is now drafting its version of a similar bill granting Duterte “anti-red tape powers” to further expedite the issuance and processing of permits, licenses and certification in the country.

Majority Leader Martin Romualdez made a statement after Duterte certified as urgent the Senate Bill 1844.

“We are readying a proposed law that would authorize the President to act expeditiously on the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses and certifications,” said Romualdez.

“House leaders under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco are in full agreement with the Chief Executive to fast-track the approval of all pending measures related to the anti-red tape and anti-corruption campaign of the government,” he added.

Earlier, the House created a high-powered committee to address red tape in the government, which affects the ease of doing business in the country.

The House Special Committee on Red Tape was formed following the Congress leaders’ meeting with Duterte to discuss measures to fight corruption and red tape in government.

The committee said the special panel is expected to focus on issues involving paying taxes, ease of doing business, procurement, public services, delivery and trade.

“We will also discuss what are the other pressing complaints from the public that the House may need to address through the exercise of our legislative function,” Romualdez added.