31 December 2021 – As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact the Philippines, 2021 proved to be a challenging year for the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA).
But this, and the fact that it is a young agency, did not hamper the Authority in wielding its twin functions of empowerment and enforcement to ensure the speedy and efficient delivery of government services and the ease of doing business.
As the year comes to a close, Secretary Jeremiah B. Belgica, ARTA Director General, assured the Filipino public that there will be no letup in the agency’s drive and commitment to deliver quality government service.
“Malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa lahat ng nakipagtulungan sa ARTA upang maitaguyod namin ang mga repormang minsan naming iminungkahi. Makakaasa ang taumbayan na ipagpapatuloy at mas pagbubutihin pa namin ang pagseserbisyo sa kanila,” he said.
“Ang tren ng reporma ay mabilis nang tumatakbo. At sa tingin ko ay wala nang gustong humarang dahil sama-sama na tayong nakasakay patungo sa aming mga pinapangarap na pagbabago para sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas,” he added.
During his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 26 July 2021, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte went off script to stress the importance of streamlining government processes and arresting those engaged in red tape practices.
This became ARTA’s marching order. As of 23 December 2021, the agency, in partnership with the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) conducted 16 entrapment operations and arrested 23 fixers.
These entrapment operations were followed by on-the-spot inspections inside the government office. Then, the head of the office is served a show-cause order that could lead to the filing of cases against all persons involved in the processing of licenses, permits, and applications.
This is called the “snake grab approach,” a strategy that the Authority institutionalized to ensure that they are able to arrest not only the small-time fixers lurking outside government offices but also the bigger game inside.
Over 50 fixers have also been arrested in various entrapments initiated by other government agencies and local government units, such as the Land Transportation Office (LTO), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Pasig City government, following ARTA’s intensified series of operations.
ARTA has also filed 551 cases against violators of Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.
Apart from this, the agency also acted on 8,848 complaints.
At least 8,507 permits, licenses, clearances, and certifications were also automatically renewed or released as of 23 December 2021.
NEHEMIA and issuances released
In 2020, ARTA launched its flagship NEHEMIA Program or the National Effort for the Harmonization of Efficiency Measures of Inter-related Agencies. It aims to cut down the processing time, requirements, and steps in each sector by 52 percent in 52 weeks.
Under this program are five priority sectors: Telco, Logistics, Food and Pharma, Housing, and Energy.
In the past few months, the Authority has released two issuances in relation to the telco sector. These are Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1, Series of 2021 or Revising and Expanding JMC No. 1, Series of 2020 or the Streamlined Guidelines for the Issuance of Permits, Licenses, and Certificates for the Construction of Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructures (PTTIs); and JMC No. 1, Series of 2021 or the Streamlined Guidelines for the Issuance of Permits and Clearances for the Erection of Poles, Construction of Underground Fiber Ducts, and Installation of Aerial and Underground Cables and Facilities to Accelerate the Roll Out of Telecommunications and Internet Infrastructure.
The revised and expanded JMC on PTTIs aims to expedite the deployment rate of telco towers by weeding out the burdensome requirements and processes in the permitting system for PTTIs.
Similarly, the JMC on Poles also accelerate the rollout of telco infrastructure and service projects to provide faster and more accessible internet connectivity.
As of September 2021, ARTA has learned that at least 33,748 permits in the telco sector have been released. Of this number, 28,331 are from PLDT/Smart, 3,560 are from DITO Telecommunity, and 1,857 are from Globe.
The country’s internet speed has also been seeing a steady improvement, which the Authority credits to its newly released issuances.
Data from speedtext global indexing company Ookla showed that the Philippines ranks 68th for mobile download speed and 69th for fixed broadband speed as of November 2021. This is a significant leap from the country’s initial rankings in August 2017, when it placed 100th for mobile download speed. and 94th for fixed broadband speed.
As the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, ARTA, along with other key agencies, signed JMC No. 1, Series of 2021 or the Establishment of the Green Lane for Securing Permits, Licenses, and Authorizations for the Establishment and Operation of a Bulk Import, Fill, and Finish Local Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) Vaccine Manufacturing Facility and for the Registration for Availment of Incentives.
This was a response to President Duterte’s call to lessen the Philippines’ dependence on other countries for the importation of COVID-19 vaccines and to instead capacitate it in developing its own vaccines.
For the Logistics sector, ARTA, along with other key agencies signed JMC No. 2021-01 or the Omnibus Guidelines on the Suspension of LGU Imposition and Collection of Illegal Fees and Taxes Relative to the Transport of Goods and Products.
This issuance seeks to prohibit the collection of illegal pass-through fees and taxes on the transport of goods and products, which covers “charges for wharfage, tolls for bridges or otherwise, sticker fee, discharging fee, delivery fee, market fee, toll fee, entry fee, and/or mayor’s permit fee, or other taxes, fees, or charges in any form whatsoever upon such goods or merchandise.”
The agency is also set to sign a JMC on the implementation of a Unified Logistics Pass (ULP), that will employ the use of a single QR Code or sticker, in 2022 to facilitate more efficient logistics services.
As of 23 December 2021, ARTA has now issued 12 JMCs and 22 Memorandum Circulars.
Among the other JMCs issued were JMC No. 1, Series of 2021 or the Creation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Streamlining the Processing of Uniformed Services Benefit Claims; JMC No. 2, Series of 2021 or the Guidelines on the Processing of Retirement Benefits, Gratuities Claims, and Other Entitlements of Uniformed Personnel and their Beneficiaries; and JMC No. 1, Series of 2021 or the Guidelines in the Processing of Construction-Related Permits.
Another major project that ARTA was a part of is this year’s launch of the Central Business Portal (CBP), a sole digital platform for registering businesses in the country. This was established by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
Since its launch in January, the services of at least 578 corporations and government agencies have been integrated in the CBP. This number includes 287 registered corporations, 267 hyperlinked LGUs, 17 integrated LGUs, six primary agencies, and one secondary agency.
Data from the Authority showed that at least 8,972 government agencies, LGUs, and other government instrumentalities have put up their updated Citizen’s Charters, or the information billboard containing the pertinent information on the services that government agencies offer, including the requirements, processing time, and costs.
At least 921 agencies have also established their electronic business one-stop shops (eBOSS) and around 611 agencies have formed their Committees on Anti-Red Tape (CART) as of 23 December 2021.
Additionally, four trade regulatory government agencies (TRGAs) are now operating live on TradeNet while 18 others have been onboarded to the platform.
This, as ARTA Sec. Belgica was nominated to chair a technical working group (TWG) that will focus on onboarding TRGAs to the TradeNet, the National Single Window System that enables the online processing of import and export permits.
ARTA has also conducted a total of 156 Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) trainings for other government agencies to capacitate them and ensure their compliance with sound regulatory practices. Of this figure, 79 are from the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) track, 24 are from the University of the Philippines Public Administration Research and Extension Services Foundation, Inc.-Regulatory Support Program for National Development (UPPAF-RESPOND) track, and 53 are from the Executive Seminar on the Regulatory Management System (RMS)/RIA. These trainings covered 858 civil servants for this year alone compared to the 219 in 2019 and 174 in 2020.
The agency is hoping that through its various trainings, the Philippines will graduate from the starter to the enabled stage in the RMS levels of maturity by the end of President Duterte’s term.
In the coming months, ARTA aims to further improve the CBP through its Business Process Mapping (BPM) project, that entails mapping all the permits and licenses involved in the entire business cycle and integrating it to the CBP.
It envisions a “womb-to-tomb” approach that covers not only permits on starting a business, but also those that concern operating and closing a business.
The Authority has also launched a number of online platforms and apps that are seen to augment its streamlining services and complaints and concerns handling.
These include the Anti-Red Tape Electronic Management Information System (ARTEMIS) that provides a real-time and on-demand database and mapping of all government services in the Citizen’s Charters, and the Philippine Business Regulations Information System (PBRIS) that serves as a repository of information on the Philippine Regulatory Management System and other laws and regulations that are relevant to the public. Both platforms were developed in partnership with UPPAF-RESPOND.
Also launched was the ARTA Dashboard and ARTA Citizen Services Mobile Application, made in partnership with UPPAF-RESPOND that the public can use to file concerns and complaints before the Authority.
To improve the measurement of the effective implementation of the Citizen’s Charter and the efficient delivery of government service, the Authority launched a scorecard for government agencies called the Report Card Survey 2.0. It is a holistic tool that is aimed at reducing regulatory burdens. It can be conducted both online and on-site and will examine three core areas: institutionalization of Republic Act No. 11032 mandates, overall client satisfaction, and agency performance and recognition.
The RCS was initially overseen by the Civil Service Commission (CSC). But with the enactment of R.A. 11032, Section 20 stated that ARTA is now responsible for its implementation, in coordination with the CSC and Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
ARTA has also released a series of references that aim to inform government agencies, members of the private sector, and the public on the importance of streamlining, reengineering, and improvement of the country’s RMS.
Together with the UPPAF-RESPOND, ARTA launched the country’s first-ever RIA Manual that provides the tools, process, and procedures of undertaking a RIA to ensure that regulations are subjected to proper consultations and evidence-based analysis before its issuance.
The Philippine Good Regulatory Principle (PGRP) is a set of guidelines and core principles on how to promote proportionate, consistent, accountable, and targeted regulations through effective dialogue between regulators and regulated entities. The 10 principles can be summarized into the following: clarity, legal and empirical basis, benefit-cost, assessment, engagement, coherence, whole-of-government, continuous evaluation, competition, and risk management.
Another reference document is the Whole-of-Government Reengineering Manual, that serves as a reference on the process reengineering methodology and will provide practical tools to support reforms and streamlining efforts in government processes that are in line with the WOG approach.
Both the PGRP and the WOG Reengineering Manual were crafted with the assistance of the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) and the UK Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as key initiatives of the Memorandum of Understanding on regulatory reform signed by ARTA and the UK government.
Another foreign government that entered into an arrangement with the Authority is the New Zealand government. The partnership, that was forged through the New Zealand Government to Government (G2G) Partnerships, Limited, seeks to strengthen Philippine-New Zealand relations and boost their efforts in the fields of ease of doing business and public sector efficiency.
One of ARTA’s most important achievements this year is the enlistment of several volunteers, which includes 13 organizations that committed to serve as ARTA Champions and 26 multi-sectoral organizations.
ARTA’s current roster of private sector “champions” include Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Guild of Real Estate Entrepreneurs and Professionals, Confederation of Filipino Workers Junior Chamber International, The Manila Times, Flash Media, Rotary Club Ermita, Rotary International District, Chamber of Cosmetics Industry of the Philippines, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Philippines Inc., Elevaxion, Health and Dietary Supplement Association of the Philippines, and Out-of-Home Advertising Association of the Philippines.
ARTA Champions are given the responsibility of receiving red tape-related complaints and concerns that they can turn over to the agency for further action. Meanwhile, ARTA volunteers provide the Authority with general support.
Earlier, the Authority launched its first ARTAmbayan Outpost along Magalang Street at Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City. This public assistance and complaints desk, which is manned by ARTA volunteers, will serve as an avenue where the public can relay their red tape-related complaints and concerns to.
ARTA will set up more ARTAmbayan Outposts in different parts of Metro Manila, especially in areas that are reported to be hotbeds of fixers, in the coming months.
Among the Authority’s most awaited projects next year is the signing of the JMC of the Philippine Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Reporting System. This is a version of the World Bank Group’s (WBG) annual Doing Business (DB) report that employs the use of a localized methodology and criteria that is tailor-fit to the Philippine setting.
The Philippine EODB Reporting System will measure the quality of regulatory reforms of government agencies and will measure their compliance with the provisions of R.A. 11032.
This came after the WBG discontinued its DB report following incidents of data irregularities.
ARTA is also set to continue its cARTAravan, a nationwide campaign that aims to boost public awareness on the agency’s ease of doing business and anti-red tape initiatives, especially in the regions. This year, the Authority visited government agencies and LGUs in Regions I and II and the Cordillera Administrative Region.
All these are in furtherance of President Duterte’s desire to provide Filipinos with safe and comfortable lives.