Continuing bureaucratic red tape | Inquirer Business
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Continuing bureaucratic red tape

/ 02:01 AM February 07, 2023

Ease of doing business remains on top of the list of serious concerns of the private sector.

That assessment was made by Benedicta Du-Baladad at the inaugural meeting of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) when she assumed as president of the group early this year.


She based it on the results of a survey conducted by MAP on members in November last year when the country was gradually returning to prepandemic normalcy.

Her statement is significant in light of the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Services Delivery Act (Republic Act No. 11032) enacted in 2018.


The law, which consolidates other measures of similar purpose issued in the past, created an Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta) to oversee the implementation of its provisions.

Among others, it prescribed the number of days that certain transactions with national and local government offices have to be processed and completed under pain of administrative and penal sanctions.

The law’s implementing rules and regulations are exhaustive as they attempt to cover any loopholes that may be invoked by government employees who prefer to do their work in the manner they have been used to for years and for personal financial reasons.

Apparently, the law was not good enough because shortly after President Marcos assumed the presidency, he signed an executive order that practically mirrored its provisions and, in addition, called for the creation of a “green lane” for strategic investments.

In local business context, that lane is meant to be distinct from the existing processing mechanism and that the people who man it are supposed to act with dispatch on submissions before it.

It may be likened to the “express lane” that some government offices maintain where a person who wants his or her documents quickly processed has to pay a fee higher than that what is usually charged.

The fact that the President issued, upon the suggestion of the Department of Trade and Industry, that order may be interpreted as an implied admission that the law had not lived up to the public’s expectations.


And the results of MAP’s survey clearly show that it has fallen short of its objectives.

It is unfortunate that on the few occasions that the Arta flexed its muscles and enforced the rule that transactions that are not acted upon without justifiable reason within the required period shall be considered as approved, the government offices concerned refused to recognize (and even publicly criticized) the Arta’s action.

Their opposition may be attributed to their attitude of “territoriality,” i.e., that they will not allow other government offices to enter their domain if they can help it.

More so, if the intrusion may jeopardize the ability of their staff to demand the payment of “lubrication fees” to speed up the transactions with them.

For government offices whose DNA includes institutional corruption, the Arta is a “paper tiger” whose roar is nothing but sound and fury that can be ignored with impunity. The Arta be damned!

The efforts of the government to invite foreign investors to the Philippines through tax breaks and other fiscal incentives have been stymied by numerous complaints about the difficulty of securing business permits and licenses from government offices.

Except for a select few, the rule of thumb in doing business with those offices is either to seek the assistance of one of their high ranking officials or engage the services of a fixer whose efforts, of course, would have to be amply rewarded.

Once in a while we read about corrupt government officials getting caught red handed in a sting, but after that nothing is heard any more about the disciplinary action taken, if any.

And when asked about it, the standard reply is, data privacy prohibits any disclosure without the consent of the persons involved. INQ

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