27 July 2022 – Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) Officer-in-Charge and Undersecretary Ernesto V. Perez vowed that the Authority would act on the streamlining and digitalization directives given out by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Among the plans that President Marcos bared in his SONA on Monday, 25 June 2022 include the acceleration of digitalization in the country through the automation of government processes and passage of the E-Governance Act, the streamlining of tax payment processes, the implementation of the national rightsizing program, and the strengthening of the country’s health sector through the establishment of institutions and procurement of sufficient medicines.

“We are happy that, consistent with his promises before he became President, streamlining and digitalization remain to be President Marcos’ priorities for his administration. With more public servants recognizing the Philippines’ massive problem with excessively bureaucratic practices, we gain more allies in the fight against red tape,” ARTA Usec. Perez said.

“ARTA is more than ready to sustain and even build upon the various reforms that we have initiated under the administration of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” he added.

President Marcos called for the passage of several proposed legislations, including the National Government Rightsizing Program (NGRP), E-Government Act, and E-Governance Act.

In response, ARTA Usec. Perez said the Authority is ready to assist the government, *pursuant to its mandate under Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018,* in reviewing the functions of government agencies to ensure that there are no redundancies *and overlapping regulations.* ARTA also earlier expressed willingness to help other government agencies to transition toward digitalizing their services.

President Marcos emphasized the need for the government to continuously innovate and digitize its processes and records to keep up with rapidly evolving technology.

“We are entering an age of exponential adoption of technology. It is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The scale and the speed at which these innovations are introduced universally into our everyday lives and activities is unprecedented in our recorded history. We cannot stand idly by,” he said.

Connectivity and Telecommunications is among the five priority sectors in ARTA’s flagship National Effort for the Harmonization of Efficient Measures of Inter-related Agencies (NEHEMIA) Program.

Under this effort, ARTA has launched three Joint Memorandum Circulars (JMCs) that streamlined the guidelines for the issuance of permits, licenses, and certificates for the construction of shared passive telecommunications tower infrastructure (PTTIs), erection of poles, construction of underground fiber ducts, and installation of aerial and underground cables and facilities.

With this, the number of permits needed were reduced from 13 to eight, documentary requirements from 86 to 15, and length of time for processing from 241 to 16 days.

The said reforms also lead to a surge of released permits in the telecommunications sector. At least 68,711 permits for three major telecommunications companies were released as of December 2021.

Faster connectivity was also recorded in the Philippines. According to Ookla Speedtest Global Index Rankings, the country’s average download speeds is at 19.26 Megabits per second (Mbps) for mobile data, placing it at the 91st rank worldwide, and 60.09 Mbps for fixed broadband, placing it in the 58th spot as of May 2022.

When Ookla began in August 2017, the Philippines was in the 100th spot for mobile download speed and at the 94th spot for fixed broadband speed.

ARTA has also held meetings with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and other relevant government agencies to streamline its processes, improve data-sharing among government agencies, and push for the digitization of government records for faster transactions.

Also among the automation initiatives that ARTA launched or played a major role in include the Philippine Business Hub (PBH), a sole digital platform for the registration of businesses in the country; monitoring of compliances of local government units with the electronic business one-stop shop (eBOSS); and the collaboration with the Aboitiz Group on the Pinas Bilis streamlining assistance program for all government agencies and local government units.

The President also called for the establishment of the country’s own Center for Disease Control and Prevention and vaccine institute.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ARTA released a JMC titled the “Establishment of a Green Lane for Securing Permits, Licenses, and Authorizations for the Establishment and Operation of a Bulk Import, Fill, and Finish Local Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccine Manufacturing Facility and For the Registration for Availment of Incentives.”

This was also done in line with ARTA’s flagship NEHEMIA Program under the Food and Pharma sector.

Another priority sector in the NEHEMIA Program is the Energy sector. President Marcos also mentioned this sector in his SONA, saying that cheap, reliable energy is required for fundamental growth and increased employment, which would put it under the “ease of doing business category.”

In his SONA, the President also honored the country’s Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and mentioned the newly created Department of Migrant Workers.

“Ang kagawarang ito ang magsisilbing kanlungan ng ating mga kababayan sa gitna ng mundong walang kasiguruhan at mahigpit na kumpetisyon. Ito ang maglalatag sa kanila ng mga oportunidad; titiyak na ang kanilang mga hanapbuhay ay tugma sa kanilang mga kasanayan; maninigurong akma ang sahod at maayos ang kalagayan sa kanilang mga kumpanya; at mangangalaga sa kanilang mga pamilya habang sila ay nasa malayo,” he said.

“Gagawin natin ito sa pamamagitan ng pag-aalis ng red tape sa sistema ng pagsusulong ng digital empowerment,” he added.

In the past few months, ARTA has conducted meetings and hearings with with various government agencies that are involved with OFWs.

Among the issues discussed in the said meetings are the automatic forwarding of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearances to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for Apostille, as well as streamlining solutions to backlogs in passport appointments and blood money claims.

The President also said that he will promote ease of paying taxes through simpler tax compliance procedures. He also directed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to streamline their processes through information and communications technology.

ARTA has forged a strong partnership with the BOC as both agencies worked together toward streamlining the former’s processes. Among the projects that they worked on include the onboarding of Trade Regulatory Government Agencies (TRGAs) to TradeNet, the National Single Window.