DURING the inaugural State at the 2010 Nation Address (Sona) of President Benigno Aquino III called on the local government units to "look for more ways to streamline our processes to make business start-ups easier. I hope the LGUs can also find ways to implement reforms that will be consistent with the ones we have already started." In keeping with this challenge, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) signed a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) and an accompanying Administrative Order on August 6, 2010 that sets standards for processing application for new businesses and business renewals. This initiative is envisioned to be the first project under the newly-organized Sub-working Group on Local Investment Reforms that aim to promote local economic development through improvements in the competitiveness of LGUs and the overall investment climate of the local level.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

As with other countries, local government units (LGUs), especially cities, have an important role to play in driving national economic growth. Improving the country's competitiveness standing from 144 among 183 countries in the latest World Bank study on "Doing business 2010 - Reforming through Difficult Times" will really require involving the LGUs in reforming the country's business registration process. The survey period for 2010 covers the second semester last year till first semester of this year.

The Doing Business Survey of the IFC/WB through the years has consistently identified the high cost of doing business in the Philippines as a constraint to the competitiveness of the country.

This cost of doing business may come in the form of number of days or literally cost in terms of fees and charges spent by a businessman or investor to start a business.

Compliance with the standards for processing permits will require streamlining the business permits and licensing system (BPLS) of cities and municipalities. There had been past efforts at simplifying BPLS that benefited some 62 cities and 209 municipalities nationwide through various projects of development partners such as from GTZ, USAID, CIDA and IFC. For the first time, however, the government will be imposing service standards consistent with Republic Act No. 9485, otherwise known as the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 (ARTA) and the JMC. Therefore, there is really a need to capacitate cities and municipalities to comply with these standards. Hence, a manual was formulated as an operational guidance of the project. The manual is intended to be a reference material that LGUs can refer to in the process of streamlining their operations. Likewise, several training workshops are planned for the purpose.

Specifically, the project will (1) recommend standards for Business Permits and Licensing Systems (BPLS) which LGUs can follow; (2) develop capacity building programs for BPLS streamlining; (3) organize government departments at the regional level to work with LGUs in implementing the BPLS reforms; and (5) harmonize different reform initiatives by development partners on BPLS streamlining.

The Local Government Academy (LGA), under the DILG, coordinated the Trainer's Training component of the project. The Trainer's Training workshop for Upscaling Business Permits and Licenses system Reforms in 2010 was recently conducted here in the City of Bagio which was attended by about sixty (60) participants together with the following expert consultants; Ms. Menchie Kho, Mr. Tim Moiket, Ms. Jinky Panares and Ms. Corinne Cinco.

Participants of the workshop who are considered "catalyst of change" together with their higher officials in their respective areas were Business Permits and Licensing Officers from Local Government Units, DTI and DILG Field Officers of Regions I, 2 and CAR, representative from the Local Chambers of Baguio and Benguet, and likewise representative from various Academe of the same regions.

Ms. Carmelita C. Usman, ARD of DTI-CAR stressed in her closing message that LGUs can be more business friendly if they can streamline its business permits and licensing registration. She further said "we can be more globally competitive if each one of us will do our share".

Chamber Calendar of Events:

• August 25-27, 2010 - 19th South Luzon Area Business Conference hosted by PCCI-Cavite at the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay

• August 26, 2010 ADB Seminar Series on Regional Economic Integration by Dr. Hyoung-Tae Kim. For information and confirmation email at miscruz@adb.org , www.adb.orgor contact Maria Liza S. Cruz, Asian Development Bank 6326326441

• October 21-22, 2010, 9th Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

• October 25-29 2010, National Chemical Engineering Congress 2010 conducted by Pacific Resources Exchange Center (PREX). For information email: asea-management2010@prex-hrd.org.jp