A high-level committee chaired by the secretary of the Department of Finance (DOF) has agreed to adopt a government-built online platform for traders as the vehicle for the country’s National Single Window (NSW), which aims to facilitate trade, heighten transparency in customs procedures and improve revenue collection.
DOF Undersecretary and Chief Economist Gil Beltran said this online trading platform—TradeNet.gov.ph—will perform the functions of the NSW, which will eventually be interconnected by December to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Single Window, a regional initiative that aims to speed up cargo clearances and promote economic integration by enabling the electronic exchange of border documents among the organization’s 10 member-states.
The NSW Steering Committee met last Aug. 30 at the Ayuntamiento building of the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) to discuss the implementation of the Philippines’ single window, along with related measures to facilitate trade and improve the ease of doing business.
Besides the DOF, the other members of the NSW Steering Committee are the secretaries of the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Agriculture (DA), Transportation (DOTR), Interior and Local Government (DILG), and Health (DOH); the governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
In a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Beltran said the members of the steering committee also agreed to “streamline and automate processes their respective processes “to minimize costs of doing business and enhance the country’s competitiveness.”
The NSW Steering Committee is part of the NSW Task Force for Cargo Clearance created via Executive Order EO No. 482 issued in 2005.
The NSW Task Force consists of the Steering Committee and a Technical Working Group (TWG) presided by the Customs Commissioner.
“The steering committee handles the NSW and aims at facilitating trade transactions. We want, as much as possible, to reduce processing time, cut transaction costs and enhance competitiveness. The NSW is one of the most important reforms in government,” said Beltran, who was designated by Dominguez to chair and preside over the NSW panel.
“We are all performing important functions that will impact our [country’s] capability to generate investments. This is the reason why NSW was created,” Beltran added.
At a recent DOF Executive Committee meeting, Beltran explained that as the vehicle for the NSW, 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.”
TradeNet aims to connect 66 agencies and 10 economic zones involved in approving import and export permits and other trading requirements, he said.
The original EO on the NSW covers only seven Cabinet-level departments and 13 government agencies. But with the need to interconnect a total of 66 agencies operating under 17 different departments, Beltran said the Steering Committee also agreed to propose an executive order to the President expanding the coverage and membership of the NSW Task Force.
According to Beltran, TradeNet.gov.ph is being developed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), while the onboarding of agencies to the system is being initiated by DOF through its Inter-Agency Business Process Interoperability (IABPI) Project.
In the Aug. 30 meeting, the Steering Committee also discussed the progress of the Philippine Business Databank and the proposed National ID system.
A dry run of the PBDB was conducted last Aug. 14 at the DTI, which already has its application program interface for the business registry up and running.
On Aug. 16, the PBDB was launched at the 5th Annual Regional Competitiveness Summit 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.
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, also 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.