President Duterte’s order to slash red tape should cover not only national government agencies but must be heeded by local governments, where citizens pay for assorted permits and licenses yearly.
This was stressed today by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, who said that the reduction of requirements and the speeding up of the processing for government-issued documents must be bureaucracy-wide, “to cover national agencies, LGUs and government corporations.”
Recto noted that red tape costs the country P140 billion yearly in opportunity losses, “and that’s for businesses alone.”
The World Bank, which made the estimate in October last year, ranked the Philippines a low 95th among 189 economies in the field of overall ease of doing business.
Recto said “permits, licenses, documents, fines, fees and charges” have long been “a profit center” for the government. “It is a multibillion peso industry.”
“If we incur heavy losses from vehicular traffic, ganoon din sa slow movement of papers,” he added.
National government income from “fees and charges” is expected to hit P39 billion this year.
Overall, non-tax revenues, including remitted profits of some government corporations, is forecast to reach P152 billion by year-end.
In addition, local governments are expected to collect P112.4 billion in real property and other taxes plus P45.23 billion in “regulatory and service” fees.
In business taxes alone, cities and towns are expected to rake in about P47. 5 billion this year, Recto said.
These huge earnings, Recto stressed, should prompt government “to continuously innovate so that red tape is cut and the process is made shorter. That’s one dividend the paying public is entitled to.”
In requesting permits from government, “the rule should be ‘keep it simple’ and ‘less is more.’”
Recto said the Duterte administration should assign an “anti-red tape czar” who should “wield a big chainsaw in hacking away the thicket of regulations that choke efficiency.”
While he lauded the appointment of Department of Finance (DOF) Undersecretary Gil Beltran as the agency’s anti-red tape czar, “his mandate covers DOF agencies like BIR and BOC only.”
“We want someone with a bureaucracy-wide mandate. Kasama national and local, pati ang government corporations,” Recto said in reaction to Beltran’s designation by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
“The first thing that this official should do is conduct an inventory of rules and then install benchmarks to be followed,” the senator said.
The lawmaker batted for a “singular national timetable” to be followed in government transactions. “The speed by which a business permit will come out in the NCR should be the same in Mindanao.”
To be fed in the shredder, he said, are unnecessary and frivolous requirements.
“Kung writer ka or researcher, or you are a graphic artist who uses a laptop in your trade, kailangan mo pa ba ng fire clearance bago makakakuha ng local business permit?” Recto said, citing one example.
A major blow against red tape is to lengthen validity of government licenses and lessen the frequency that these needed to be renewed, Recto said.
The administration’s policy pronouncement that the validity of driver’s licenses, passports be extended is a step in the right direction, said Recto, who for more than 10 years has been calling and proposing legislation lengthening the “shelf life” of government-issued permits.
Recto said Malacañang should also tap the newly-formed Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in spearheading the practice of online government transactions.
“Permits, licenses should now be applied for, processed, issued, renewed online. In this Republika ng Pila-pinas, let us leave to the MRT the exclusive franchise of organizing long lines,” Recto said.
“Hindi na kailangan pumunta sa mga opisina. Facetime, we leave to lovers, not to bureaucrats and the transacting public,” he said.
“Personal interaction coupled with the discretion to relax rules is what causes moral hazards,” Recto said.