The Duterte administration is finalizing a new, faster system for securing import applications that currently involve more than 60 government agencies, as part of fresh measures to cut red tape and improve the ease of doing business in the country, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Dominguez said the government is now consolidating all requirements involving applications for imports to drastically shorten the process and make this new system available online.
“We are working very closely with the Department of Information and Communications Technology on this effort. We have gotten the majority of the different units to already agree that if it is approved by one, it should be basically approved by all,” Dominguez said at a recent business forum.
Dominguez said he is aware that applying for import permits involves a tedious process that would require approvals from as many as 60 different government agencies, which is why he has directed Department of Finance (DOF) officials to help coordinate the effort of cutting red tape within the bureaucracy starting with the import requirements.
In a report to Dominguez, Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran said an online platform now being finalized by the DOF with other government agencies to modernize and fast-track the processing of import and export permits could be available soon.
This single platform dubbed TradeNet aims to connect 66 agencies and 10 economic zones involved in approving import and export permits.
“We have identified all essential activities and action items needed in preparation for the production rollout of the TradeNet system,” Beltran said at a recent DOF Executive Committee meeting.
At the same time, Beltran said the DOF and DICT are currently working on making the Philippine Business Data Bank (PBDB) fully operational down to the local government level to drastically cut the red tape in business registrations.
A dry run of the PBDB was conducted last August 14 at the Department of Trade and Industry, which already has its application program interface for the business registry up and running.
Last August 16, the PBDB was launched at the 5th Annual Regional Competitiveness Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Manila to introduce the system to local government units and encourage them to link up with the data bank.
So far, the Quezon city government has already submitted its data to the PBDB, Beltran said.
Beltran, who is the DOFs anti-red tape czar, said the TradeNet program aims to eventually connect this online portal to the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) before yearend.
With TradeNet, Beltran said the application process for imports and exports would be dramatically reduced from months to only a week or even less.
He said the DOF and DICT may start off with streamlining the processing of permits in the Bureaus of Plant Industry (BPI) and of Animal Industry (BAI) of the Department of Agriculture after the issues involving the end-to-end walkthrough of the Acccreditation, Import and Export Modules of TradeNet for these agencies were threshed out lastAugust 9.
“The TradeNet accreditation module is designed to consolidate the database of all agencies when they accredit traders for import and export,” said Beltran, who is also the DOF’s chief economist.
Beltran said the target is to integrate TradeNet’s activities with the ASW and “go live by December 2017.”
This ASW for the 10 member-economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations aims to expedite cargo clearance among the ASEAN states and promote regional integration by enabling the electronic exchange of order documents.
So far, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are already using the ASW to exchange information on customs clearances.
Last year, the DOF was able to secure a P21.5 million grant from the German development bank KfW Group to help implement what is now known as TradeNet.
Dominguez said the grant from the Frankfurt-based KfW Group is now helping implement the Inter-Agency Business Process Interoperability (IABPI) Program, which aims to streamline the process of issuing permits for imports and exports.
The IABPI is being implemented by the DOF’s Policy Development and Management Services Group headed by Beltran in coordination with the government’s trade regulatory agencies.
Aside from simplifying import-export documentation processes, the program’s targets include developing policies to “oversee, manage and harmonize transactions of all regulatory agencies” involved in these processes by establishing protocols to link their databases with each other.
The program also aims to enforce “transparent and accountable regulation processes and procedures [in] all relevant government agencies” and ensure that these would be sustained.
In the last Sulong 2017 workshop, among the recommendations presented to President Duterte were measures to help improve the ease of doing business in the country.
Over 500 participants from the executive and legislative branches of government, representatives of multilateral institutions, leaders of the business community and civil society groups attended the whole-day second Sulong workshop.
Their top 10 recommendations were as follows: 1) Identifying Best Competitive Advantages versus other countries in ASEAN and rallying both government and private sector to drive growth and competitiveness; 2) Improving ease of doing business through the convergence of different agencies, including the local government units; 3) Completing C-6 (from Skyway/FTI in Taguig to Batasan Complex in Quezon City) to ease Metro Manila congestion; 4) Allowing new players in the telecommunications industry; 5) Improving agricultural support infrastructure and services such as farm-to-market roads, cold storage, and irrigation to facilitate the distribution of agricultural products and increased farmer incomes;
6) Addressing the job-skills mismatch through the joint identification of job profiles needed per industry by the government, industry and the academe; 7) Improving health services by expanding public access to healthcare, which would entail expanding Philhealth coverage, providing more free medicines, and strengthening rural health units and hospitals; 8) Improving land tenure security in all areas; 9) Intensifying and speeding up resolution of the conflict in Marawi; and 10) Providing entrepreneurial education for farmers, fisherfolk and other agricultural workers.
Dominguez had assured the various stakeholders who took part in the Sulong Pilipinas forum that the government will accelerate the implementation of their top 10 recommended action programs.