Duterte signs law granting benefits for startups

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law that aims to give incentives to and implement programs for startups in the country.

Under Republic Act (RA) 11337, which was inked on April 26, a Philippine Startup Development Program is created as part of Duterte's bid to foster inclusive growth through an innovative economy.

The program should be composed of programs, benefits and incentives for startups and startup enablers promulgated through the respective mandates of national government agencies and extended by the nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

"It is hereby declared the policy of the State to foster inclusive growth through an innovative economy by streamlining government and nongovernment initiatives, in both local and international spheres, to create new jobs and opportunities, improve production, and advance innovation and trade in the country," the law read.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Information and Technology (DICT) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) are tasked as lead agencies to asses, monitor, develop and expand the program.

The three departments are also mandated to consult concerned government agencies and NGOs to set key metrics to track the impact and development of the program,

The law also directs the DTI to promulgate the rules for the efficient registration and assessment of startup enablers.

The program, according to the law, aims to support the country's startups and startup enablers' research and development; access to startup development programs; participation in local and international events; and collaboration with government and private sector.

The program also seeks to support the development and growth of enterprises, and develop policies and regulations to address or remove undue restrictions in the implementation of the program.

Startups or startup enablers who will pass selection and application process will be granted full or partial subsidy for registration and use of facilities or equipment provided by government.

They will also get endorsement for the expedited or prioritized processing of applications and grant-in-aid for research, development, training and expansion projects.

"The DTI shall be the agency to initiate and coordinate with national and local government agencies involved with the registration, licensing, certification, including those who levy fees and charges for services subsidized by host agencies, and such other regulatory process to be undertaken by startups and startup enablers endorsed by host agencies," the RA 11337 stated.

To support startups and startup enablers' participation in local or international events or competitions, they will receive endorsement for expedited or prioritized processing of travel documents; full or partial subsidy for travel documents, roundtrip airfare, and baggage allowance; and per diem allowance.

The law tasked the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, in coordination with DTI, DOST, and DICT, to pursue and promote the creation of Philippine Startup Ecozones or Special Economic Zones to spur the growth and development of startup and startup enablers through either private or local government initiatives.

RA 11337 also establishes Startup Venture Fund (SVF), which will be under the DTI, to match investment by selected investors in startups based in the Philippines.

The DTI and National Development Company (NDC) will jointly develop and issue appropriate rules and regulations for the selection of investors and the effective management and utilization of the SVF.

The initial and succeeding appropriations for the SVF will be proposed by the DTI and included in the budget of the NDC under the annual General Appropriations Act.

Under the law, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is directed to create startup owner visa for prospective or current foreign owner of startup or startup enabler; startup employee visa for foreign employee of a startup or startup enabler; and startup investor visa for prospective or current foreign investor of a startup or startup enabler.

The startup visas will have an initial five-year validity and may be extended for another three years.

"Multiple-entry interim startup visas valid for six months to one year shall be issued for free to prospective startup owners, investors or enablers upon the endorsement of the appropriate host agency," the law noted.

"Bearers of the visa shall be exempt from securing an Alien Employment Permit issued by the Department of Labor and Employment, the DFA, Bureau of Immigration," it added.

The law also seeks the DICT's development of a website that will serve as the primary source of information on statistics, events, programs, and benefits for startups and startup enablers and related enterprises in the country.

The Palace released a copy of RA 11337 just on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (SunStar Philippines)


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