02 September 2020 – The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) is heeding the directive of President Roa Rodrigo Duterte in the recently released Administrative Order (AO) 32: “EXPEDITING THE REVIEW AND APPROVAL PROCESS OF INFRASTRUCTURE FLAGSHIP PROJECTS ON WATER SECURITY”.

This Administrative Order directs all government agencies to fast-track the infrastructure development in water resources to ensure that by 2030 “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable water for all” is achieved.

“The movement and completion of infrastructure projects for water security projects is a high priority for the administration and is precisely the reason for this Administrative Order. We heed the instruction of the President to strictly implement the provisions of RA11032 on these projects. The same strategy that ARTA has been employing with the common tower will also be applied to fast track the processing of water infrastructure projects. We call on all agencies and LGUs involved, move faster as directed by the President. Giving procedural or logistical delay as reasons will no longer cut it, we have to find a way,” The ARTA czar said.

As what was done with the common towers, ARTA plans to implement a similar strategy in addressing water project bottlenecks by conducting a series of consultations with the implementing agencies and private stakeholders and then issuing a recommendation on the streamlined processes. For telecommunications, ARTA released a Joint Memorandum Circular with DICT to streamline the process of issuing documents needed for the construction of shared passive telecommunications tower infrastructures. Following this, ARTA has continuously issued compliance orders to Local Government Units who have pending applications based from the submissions of telco companies including Smart and Globe.

ARTA Director General Jeremiah Belgica promptly convened a meeting with National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Secretary Karl Chua and Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs and Projects (PA-FPP) Secretary Vince Dizon. NEDA Undersecretary Jonathan Uy and their Directors also attended. Plans moving forward were discussed and future meetings with water concessionaires and stakeholders are set to be scheduled in the coming days. Additionally, NEDA presented to ARTA the updated list of water-resource infrastructure flagship projects with pending applications and the statuses thereof.

“We shall closely work with NEDA, PA-FPP and the other agencies for the coming up of a more streamlined process,” DG Belgica explained.

Under AO 32, ARTA is directed to implement its mandate of reviewing the relevant laws, including executive issuances and local ordinances, and recommending the appropriate action such as to repeal if found adding undue regulatory burden to the transacting public with particular focus on those involved in infrastructure flagship projects on water security. AO 32 was released to answer the problem of low water levels in existing reservoirs, particularly in Metro Manila. Further, it aims to mitigate the increasing demand and competing use over the limited water supply.

“We are issuing a warning to those causing unreasonable delay: we will ensure that the full measure of the law will be imposed on you. We want to reiterate that all applications that have complete requirements and are paid are deemed automatically approved if they go beyond the prescribed processing time. An audit of all pending applications and permits in all agencies involved will be made and unreasonable delays will be accounted for. We are steadfast in the push of the President to cut red tape and cause the ease of doing business in the country,” DG Belgica ended.

Under Section 10 of R.A. 11032, pending applications with complete requirements and that are fully paid will be automatically approved by operation of law. ARTA will be conducting an audit of all pending applications to ensure that they are released or given a written of explanation if still incomplete. Agencies that are non-compliant will face appropriate sanctions.