Public agencies warned vs delays in approval of permits
The Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta) is giving thousands of government agencies until early next month to comply with a critical provision in the Ease of Doing Business Law, which has been in effect for seven months now.
The law prescribes a strict timetable for government employees to process business applications, a provision that many local and foreign business groups have lauded for its goal to cut red tape and prevent corruption.
Under the provision, government offices have three, seven or 20 days to process permits, depending the complexity or technicality of the papers. At most, this could be extended for another 20 days.
On Valentine’s Day, however, Arta issued a memorandum circular giving thousands of national and local government agencies until March 7 to comply with the 3-7-20 rule.
The circular was announced to the media on Monday.
The deadline—which also reads as 3/7/20—is for government agencies to act on pending applications and automatically approve those that have complete documentation. Arta —together with the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC)—will conduct a joint random compliance audit.
Arta and PACC are headed by brothers—Arta Director General Jeremiah Belgica and PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica, who were both appointed by President Duterte. Their father, Grepor, is Presidential Adviser for Religious Affairs.
Arta requires government agencies to revise their charters to specify which specific processes should be done under three days, seven days or 20 days. However, out of 4,667 agencies covered, only 1,726 agencies have complied.
“We need to make our government agencies realize that the law is here and there are no more excuses for their small processes and inefficiencies. We have given them time and options and now, we can no longer tolerate sub-par service,” the Arta chief said in a press briefing on Monday.
Arta’s Belgica denied that the circular gave government agencies leeway to comply. He also said the circular did not qualify as a new policy since the strict timetable was already in the law.
Nevertheless, the business community had high hopes for the law, especially since it has harsh penalties against red tape.
At first offense, the government employee or official could be suspended for the delay. For the second offense, he or she would have an administrative and criminal liability.
However, Arta’s announcement on Monday delayed the quick action that businesses have long been waiting for.
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