The Department of Finance (DOF) implemented several innovations in 2017 anchored on the use of digital technology to improve the ease of doing business and electronically interconnect with other member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help speed up the region’s economic integration.
In partnership with the Department of Information Technology (DICT), these innovations launched by the DOF last year include the establishment of the Philippine Business Data Bank (PBDB) and the National Single Window via the TradeNet platform; the ongoing computerization program at the Department and the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (BIR) and of Customs (BOC); and the continuing efforts to reduce the procedures and requirements in securing government documents or applications.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the DOF’s anti-red tape group has also teamed up with trade regulatory agencies on finetuning the use of online platforms to streamline business processes down to the level of the local government units (LGUs)
The head of the DOF’s anti-red tape program, Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran, said “this involves a lot of agencies so we cannot just move alone.”
In establishing the NSW for instance,, Beltran said 76 government agencies need to be onboard to make the program fully operational.
Beltran said the PBDB, now piloted in Quezon City, will eventually allow the online processing of business permits down to the local government level and targets to cover all 1,634 local government units nationwide within a two-year period.
“Economic zone data will likewise be progressively be made available covering all economic zones in the country,” Beltran said.
Beltran said the precursor to the PBDB, the Online Unified Business Permit Application Form, is now being finetuned to further simplify the process and allow businesses to apply for LGU business permits regardless of location.
He said the DOF and other involved agencies are now “finalizing the data elements” for the online business permit application form so it could be pilot-tested by the first quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, the TradeNet platform for traders, which will also serve as the Philippines link to the ASEAN Single Window (ASW) gateway, became operational by the end of the year and is expected to minimize the costs of doing business and cut the processing time for the issuance of import and export permits, he said.
The ASW is 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. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are already using the ASW to exchange information on customs clearances.
Beltran said TradeNet.gov.ph–the digital portal to the NSW–will allow traders to initially use the system to apply for import and export permits for rice, sugar, used motor vehicles, chemicals (toluene), frozen meat medicines (for humans, animals or fish) and cured tobacco.
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.”
Initially, 16 government agencies were connected online to TradeNet. These include, among others, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), National Tobacco Administration (NTA), Fair Trade and Enforcement Bureau (FTEB), National Food Authority (NFA), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), BIR and BOC.
On the ongoing computerization program in the DOF and its attached agencies such as the BIR and BOC, the Department started putting in place in 2017 a comprehensive cybersecurity defense structure that will shield its online portals and communications systems from sophisticated cyber attacks.
The cybersecurity system will be set up through an Advanced Security Operations Center (ASOC) and would involve deploying communication “brokers” to connect all inline security appliances of each attached agency to this ASOC.
By 2021, the DOF expects the system to be fully in place and operational. The DOF will also work with the DICT to ensure the sustainability of the system.
Beltran said that for 2018, the DOF will continue expanding the NSW to realize the goal of connecting a total of 76 government agencies online to the BOC.
He also expects the Credit Information System (CIS) under the Securities and Exchange Commission this year, along with the movable collateral registry system under the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to be operational starting 2018.
Both these initiatives aim to benefit micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as the CIS would help banks assess the credit worthiness of its potential borrowers using a credit information database, while the movable collateral registry system will enhance and simplify the process on taking movable assets, such as inventory, equipment, sales contracts, quedan and other intangible assets as collateral.
Beltran said the DOF will also continue its efforts to help make the PBDB fully operational this year and will help spearhead with the SEC the launching of the national warehouse receipts system after the enactment of the Warehouse Receipts Law, which is targeted for approval by the Congress in 2018.
Modernizing the warehouse receipts system involves overhauling a 105-year old law to make way for a computerized central registry for all warehouse receipts, which are used by farmers and other members of the agriculture sector as collateral to obtain credit.
Farmers are issued warehouse receipts as proof of ownership of their goods stored in warehouses. Such receipts are then traded or encumbered in exchange for credit to informal lenders as banks are often hesitant to extend loans using unreliable and easily tampered paper receipts as collateral.