The House committee on trade and industry chaired by Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th District, Iloilo) approved a substitute bill seeking to lessen the documentation and waiting time for business permit applications.
The unnumbered bill titled “An Act Establishing a National Policy on Ease of Doing Business, Creating for the Purpose the Ease of Doing Business Commission” substituted HBs 2171, 5031, 5093, 5383, 5634, 5809, and 6401 authored by Reps. Vilma Santos-Recto (6th District, Batangas), Biron, Rep. Arthur Yap (3rd District, Bohol), Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City), Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City), Manuel Zubiri (3rd District, Bukidnon), and Rep. Luis Raymond Villafuerte (2nd District, Camarines Sur), respectively.
Villafuerte cited the rapid growth of foreign investment in neighboring states due to their simplified procedures and shortened processing period.
“The Philippines is ranked 171st out of 185 economies in ease of doing business. There are currently now 16 procedures and 28 days to start a business, compared to the region’s average of 7 procedures and 23 days. Basically we want to be at par or better than our neighbours,”
– Rep. Luis Raymond Villafuerte, bill co-author
The substitute bill prescribes a maximum processing time of one working day for barangay governments, three working days for simple applications, and 10 working days for complex applications from the time of their receipt.
For special types of businesses where issuance of licenses first require technical evaluation or similar processes, the bill prescribes processing time to be a maximum of 30 working days.
In the event that the government unit or agency fails to process the application within the prescribed period, the application is automatically deemed approved.
In response to the approval of the substitute bill, Rep. Rodel Batocabe (Party-list, Ako Bicol) said some government transactions require more than the prescribed 30 days to process special permits.
He suggested that the Ease of Business Commission be delegated with the task of determining which agencies can be exempted from this provision.
Rep. Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong (1st District, Negros Oriental) said the bill should also consider certain requirements, such as those for restaurants and other businesses that sell food products.
She noted that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can take up to two years before they issue approval.
Villafuerte clarified that the substitute bill seeks to resolve the complicated process of acquiring the license or permit that allows an applicant to be in business. Special permits, prior consent (such as those for mining, power, and energy), and approval of registration for products to be sold commercially are not covered by the bill.
He said there is room to include a provision for special permits, but cited that the Anti-Red Tape Act mandates that applications are approved if agencies or regulatory bodies fail to act.
“When you say processing time, it means that requirements which Rep. Batocabe have specified are already complete… Bakit pa natin papatagalin sa 30 days kung kumpleto naman? If we put special provisions exempting agencies, it will defeat the purpose of this bill,”
A highlight of the bill is the proposal for a computerized or software-enabled business permitting and licensing system (BPLS), allowing city and municipal governments to automate their BPLS.
It also proposes the establishment of a one-stop business facilitation service, or a Business One Stop Shop (BOSS). BOSS enables city and municipal governments to receive and process manual or electronic submission of license, clearance, or permit applications.
Following the approval of the bill, Batocabe suggested that the committee further empower the Ease of Business Commission, saying:
“Let us define its nature that it should have quasi-judicial powers for that commission to be effective, if we really want the provisions of this bill to be enforced.”