13 October 2021 – Two senators on Monday pledged to support the initiatives of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) in improving doing business and government efficiency during the Senate Committee on Finance hearing on the agency’s proposed 2022 budget.

This, before Senator Sonny Angara, Finance Committee Chairman, endorsed ARTA’s budget proposal of P241,124,000 for financial year 2022 to plenary debate and approval.

Sen. Angara lauded ARTA for its streamlining efforts in the telecommunications sector, particularly its role in the speedy release of permits for the construction of shared passive telecommunications tower infrastructure (PTTIs) following the signing of a Joint Memorandum Circular.

On 23 July 2020, the Authority and other key agencies signed JMC No. 01, Series of 2020 or the Streamlined Guidelines for the Issuance of Permits, Licenses, and Certificates for the Construction of Shared (PTTIs).

Since it was signed, the issuance led to the release of at least 33,748 as of September 2021. Of this figure, 28,331 are from PLDT/Smart, 3,560 are from DITO Telco, and 1,857 are from Globe.

Secretary Jeremiah B. Belgica, ARTA Director General, also credited this for the country’s faster internet speed.

Data from Ookla, a speedtest global indexing company, showed that the Philippines ranks 73rd for mobile and 63rd for fixed broadband as of August 2021. This is a huge leap from the country’s initial rankings when Ookla Speedtest index first began on August 2017, which was 100th spot for mobile and 94th spot for fixed broadband.

“It shows a lot of passion and enthusiasm on the part of the agency heads and its undersecretaries. It’s understandable, there’s a lot of passion there, being a new agency, and the desire to do something good,” Sen. Angara said.

“Huwag kayong magsawa diyan dahil you’re really a disruptor by nature, by definition. You’re meant to disrupt, getting the agencies out of their bad habits,” he added. “That’s really your role, you’re a disruptor for good in the government.”

Meanwhile, Senator Win Gatchalian vowed to back the Authority in its plans to craft a localized version of the Doing Business (DB) report after the World Bank announced the discontinuation of its annual DB report that was participated by over 190 economies.

ARTA, together with members of the Ease of Doing Business and Anti-Red Tape (EODB-ART) Advisory Council, formed a Technical Working Group (TWG) that is now discussing how to create the localized methodology and criteria of the DB report.

The ARTA chief said doing this will help the government maximize its learnings from the World Bank’s report and address the discontinued report’s limitations.

Sen. Gatchalian suggested that awards be given to national government agencies and local government units who will top the localized DB report. He said this will serve as “bragging rights” for agencies and city governments and will make them more eager to participate in the report.

“I support the localization of EODB. In fact, we can stretch it into giving awards… this is a really exciting concept that you mentioned,” Gatchalian said.

Sec. Belgica remained hopeful that the Authority’s proposed budget will get approved without a hitch.

“We have given careful thought to every cent that is in our budget proposal for next year. This fund will further empower us to continue the strides that we have been taking in terms of streamlining and automating government services,” he said.

ARTA included a wish list worth around P100 million in its budget proposal, which will be used to purchase equipment and get additional manpower for the operationalization of the ARTA office and eight regional field offices and the launch of a strategic communication campaign to advocate ARTA’s initiatives and engage various sectors for a more holistic approach to public service.

For two years, the Authority has been operating without capital outlay, which is used to purchase infrastructure and equipment.

Sen. Angara said he will seek the grant of ARTA’s capital outlay for F.Y. 2022.

“We’ll work on helping you with your capital outlay, especially for your vehicles. Kailangan niyo ‘yon para makaikot kayo,” he said.

At the Lower House, at least three lawmakers pushed for an increase in ARTA’s budget during their budget deliberations on House Bill No. 10153 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for next year last 29 September 2021.

Deputy Speakers Bernadette Hererra-Dy and Jose “Lito” Atienza manifested for the increase. This was seconded by House Minority Leader Joseph Paduano.

The House solons terminated the Period of Sponsorship and Debate for the Authority’s proposed P241,124,000 budget in 2022 in less than three minutes with no interpellations made.