Senate OK’s bill allowing Duterte to fast-track permits

Rodrigo R. Duterte — REUTERS

THE SENATE approved on second reading a bill giving President Rodrigo R. Duterte special powers to fast-track the issuance of permits and licenses amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

By a voice vote, the chamber on Monday evening passed Senate Bill No. 1844, which will authorize Mr. Duterte to expedite and streamline the processes for new and pending applications for permits, licenses, certifications or authorizations “in times of national emergency.”

Mr. Duterte last month extended the state of calamity in the country until Sept. 12, 2021.

The measure also allows the President to suspend or waive requirements in securing these national and local permits, licenses and certifications.

The bill covers all agencies of the Executive branch.

“This is a good accompanying measure to the Ease of Doing Business. I think a lot of good will come from this,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, co-author of the bill, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“With this, I hope the President will feel emboldened to put an end to our culture of red tape, by recognizing his power to act on the ineptitude and incompetence of some of our officials and employees by removing them from government service.”

Mr. Zubiri on Monday asked Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea to have the measure certified as urgent, allowing it to do away with the three-day interval in passing bills on second and third reading. The 18th Congress is scheduled to suspend session this week for a one-month break until Nov. 15.

However, no counterpart bill has been filed in the House of Representatives.

The bill was filed in the Senate after the President consulted Congress leaders on possible amendments to the Ease of Doing Business Law, under Republic Act No. 11032, to help businesses badly affected by the pandemic.

The Philippines rose 29 places to 95th on the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report with a score of 62.8. The report measures the time required to start a business, employ workers, deal with construction permits and being connected for electricity, among others.

“This will make ARTA (Anti-Red Tape Authority) more effective specially with local government units and various government agencies to reduce bureaucracy,” George T. Barcelon, Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council private sector representative, said over the phone.

Mr. Barcelon said ARTA continues to encounter obstacles in its efforts to cut red tape.

“This is like an extension of power to the President because I know ARTA is trying its best, but there are still many obstructions, he added. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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