Twenty Philippines Government agencies to join ASEAN Single Window for customs clearance by first half of 2018

The Department of Finance (DOF) in the Philippines has revealed that around 20 government agencies are expected to go online under the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) platform between the first and second quarters of 2018. This is according to a report by the anti-red tape team to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III during a DOF Executive Committee meeting. The move is expected to further improve the ease of doing business in the country.

The ASW gateway is a regional initiative that aims to speed up cargo clearances and promote economic integration by enabling the electronic exchange of border documents among the organisation’s 10 member-states. It integrates the National Single Windows (NSW) of member states and provides the secure IT architecture and legal framework that will allow trade, transport, and commercial data to be exchanged electronically among government agencies or the trading community. According to the Philippines Government press release, the ASW Gateway has been installed and is being tested this month.  

The TradeNet Platform being built by DOF will serve as the single window for Philippines and it will be the country’s link to the ASW gateway. TradeNet, is expected “to shorten the processing time of import/export clearances, reduce the number of transactions and required documents to be submitted, and remove bureaucratic red-tape that has plagued businesses and citizens when dealing with the government.” 

Talking at a public forum organised by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) to discuss the Philippines’ efforts to further improve its current ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, Dr. Dennis Reyes, DOF’s technology modernisation architect, said that TradeNet is expected to be up and running by the end of the year. It will later have a total of 66 government agencies on-board “progressively over the course of the next two to three years.” 

Initially it will allow traders to use the system to apply for import and export permits for rice, sugar, used motor vehicles, chemicals (toluene), frozen meat, medicines (for humans, animals or fish) and cured tobacco. 

TradeNet is among three major initiatives where the DOF is harnessing the power of digital technology to improve the ease of doing business in the country. The other two are the establishment of the Philippine Business Data Bank (PBDB) down to the local government level, and a parallel modernisation initiative in the DOF and the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (BIR) and of Customs (BOC). 

In August this year, the Philippines Senate approved the Expanded Anti-Red Tape Act of 2017 which seeks to reduce the requirements for starting and operating businesses. Under the Act, Cities/municipalities are required to automate their business permitting and licensing system (BPLS) or set up an electronic-Business One Stop Shop (BOSS) within one year for more efficient business registration, as far as practicable.

The Data Bank will play a role in this by enabling LGUs to verify the validity of information for business entities and allowing them to conduct online processing of business permits.

The PBDB will involve the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which chairs the NCC, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the country’s economic zones and over 1,600 local government units (LGUs).   

Undersecretary and Chief Economist Gil Beltran, who leads the DOF’s anti-red tape team, said that the precursor to the PBDB, the Online Unified Business Permit Application Form, is now being fine-tuned to further simplify the process and allow businesses to apply for LGU business permits regardless of location.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will hold a live demonstration on PBDB to local government units (LGUs) on November 28. The DILG is in-charge of logistics, while DICT is in-charge of the program flow.  

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