On August 22, the Philippines Senate approved the Expanded Anti-Red Tape Act of 2017 which seeks to reduce the requirements for starting and operating businesses. The Act caps the time spent by an applicant from the submission of an application with complete requirements, accompanying documents and payment of fees to the receipt of approval or disapproval of the application for a license, clearance and/or permit.
Processing period for simple applications involving micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) cannot be more than three working days and 10 working days for complex applications. For special types of businesses that require clearances, accreditation and/or licenses issued by government agencies, the bill prescribed a processing time of no longer than 20 working days or "as determined by the government agency or instrumentality concerned, whichever is shorter”.
If the concerned national or local government agency application would fail to act on the application for license, clearance or permit after the prescribed processing period had lapsed then the application "shall be deemed approved."
The implementation of this Act will require streamlining of processes, reduction of duplication and computerisation of systems. Technology will be essential to the implementation and the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), which is the entity for planning, developing and promoting the national ICT agenda has been assigned a key role.
In order to enable the transition from manual to software-enabled business registration, DICT will develop the necessary software and technology-neutral platforms and secured infrastructure within one year. It will do so in coordination with the members of the Ease of Doing Business Commission, local government units (LGUs) and other concerned agencies.
Business One Stop Shop for cities/ municipalities
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. Through the BOSS, applicants could avail of online mechanisms for submission and processing of license, clearance and/or permit applications.
The software for this computerisation of the BPLS will be made available to LGUs by the DICT. In July DICT launched a cloud-based eBPLS software for LGUs.
The DICT, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Trade Industry (DTI) shall provide technical assistance in the planning and implementation of a computerized or software-enabled BPLS.
Cities/municipalities with eBOSS are required to develop electronic versions of licenses, clearances and/or permits with the same level of authority, which may be printed by businesses in the convenience of their offices.
Central Business Portal
The Act species that using government infrastructure the DICT will establish a cloud-native Central Business Portal or other similar technology as the DICT may prescribe which shall serve as a central system to receive application and capture application data from business entities. This is to promote transparency and sustain ease in doing business.
The Central Business Portal will securely connect government agencies, such as but not limited to the DTI, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), regulatory agencies, and LGUs to receive base or common business applicant data or information required for each agency to process applications, respectively, and through which each respective agency shall securely generate and issue digitally signed business license document.
A single or unified business application form will be used in processing new applications for business permits and business renewals which consolidates all the information of the applicant by various local government departments. The unified form will be made available online using technology-neutral platforms such as, but not limited, to the Central Business Portal or the city/municipality's website and various channels for dissemination. Along with the form, a comprehensive checklist of requirements, step-by-step procedures, and schedule of fees will be available online in the cities/municipalities' websites.
Philippine Business Registry Databank
The DICT, in consultation with the concerned agencies, will also develop and manage the Philippine Business Registry Databank and prescribe the data to be submitted by national government agencies and local government units. The concerned national government agencies and all local government units shall periodically submit to the system updates relative to the information registered with them.
Business licensing and/or permitting agencies and LGUs will be able to access the Philippine Business Registry Databank to verify the validity, existence and other information relevant to a business entity.
Submission of documents already provided by an applicant to an agency with access to the Philippine Business Registry Databank shall no longer be required by other agencies having similar access. The concerned agency shall crosscheck and retrieve the required information or document in the Philippine Business Registry Databank.
The Ease of Doing Business is being set up within 60 days of the Act being effective and it will serve as the policy-making body on business registration and regulatory management and shall set the overall direction for the implementation of the National Policy on Ease of Doing Business.