Friday July 20, 2018

Competitiveness ‘rests with SB 1311’

ONCE the ease of doing business bill is enacted, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri expects the country to overtake its Southeast Asian neighbors in the business competitive rankings and generate more local and foreign investments.

Zubiri told delegates of the 26th Visayas Area Business Conference (VABC) yesterday that Senate Bill 1311 or the Expanded Anti-Red Tape Act of 2017 has passed third and final reading in the Senate.

It is waiting for approval from the Lower House and President Rodrigo Duterte for it to become a law.

The bill, sponsored by Zubiri, who is also chair of the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship, is a priority bill under the Duterte administration that seeks to reduce the requirements and streamline processes in starting and operating businesses.

Once fully implemented, the senator said this will help the country improve its competitiveness ranking both in the global and regional scale.

“If Visayas’ growth rate was at 8.47 percent in 2016, hitting the 20 percent growth will not be impossible if we are able to improve the ease of doing business here,” said Zubiri.

The Visayas accounts for 12.57 percent of the Philippine economy. Its gross regional domestic product stood at P1.021 trillion last year. But the country lags behind its Asean peers in terms of competitiveness and even those with an economy smaller than the Philippines.

Investors in the Philippines will have to go through 16 procedures when applying for a business permit, a lengthy process compared to Singapore and Malaysia, with only three procedures and Laos with six procedures.

In terms of registering a property, the Philippines currently observes nine procedures, still a lengthy process compared with Thailand with three procedures only, Singapore with four procedures and Indonesia and Vietnam, which both have five procedures to follow.

As for paying taxes, an entrepreneur goes though 36 payment transactions in the Philippines, while in Singapore, there are only five payments, Malaysia with 13 payment transactions, Brunei with 27 and Myanmar with 31 payments.

“It is embarrassing that we have to go through this every year. I can’t imagine the burden that each entrepreneur has to go through when they start or operate a business here,” said Zubiri, who shared that passing the bill has become his personal advocacy after experiencing bureaucracy when he left government office and became an entrepreneur in 2011.

Among the features of Senate Bill 1311 is the new prescribed processing period, which both national and local government offices will have to strictly comply with.

Applications involving micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should not take longer than three working days while complex applications should be no longer than 10 working days from the time the application was received. For businesses that require clearances, accreditation and/or licenses, the bill prescribes a processing time of no longer than 20 working days.