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PH to institutionalize business lessons from ASEAN neighbors

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has learned a lot of economic lessons from its ASEAN neighbors and is putting them into practice as formal laws where it will have the greatest effect.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the fundamental area of starting a business.

“It takes 3 procedures and 24 hours to start any kind business in Singapore, it takes 16 procedures [and more than 20 days] in the Philippines,” Juan Miguel Zubiri pointed out at the Go Negosyo Prosperity for all Summit on April 28.

He continued, "It only takes 4 procedures to register a property in Singapore within a 24 hour period while It takes 9 procedures going to several government agencies in the Philippines.”

Zubiri has co-written proposed legislation called the “Ease of doing Business Act” which looks to institutionalize initiatives like the National Competitive Council which aims to make the private sector’s dealings with the government more efficient.

The law expands on the existing anti-red tape law, focusing on business-related transactions and strengthening the NCC, which currently only has recommendatory powers.

The key difference to existing legislation like the anti red-tape law is that “the proposed new law includes set time limits unlike today when [transactions with the government] could take forever,” Zubiri said, adding that the ambiguity also gave government officials opportunities to ask for bribes.

“For micro and small enterprises (MSMEs) with simple transactions, it will take a maximum of 3 working days. If it is a bit more of a complex transaction for an MSME it will take a maximum of working 10 days for each agency that you apply to”, Zubiri said.

“For a bigger business, it will take 30 days maximum for a more complex business such as, for example, putting up a chemical plant, as designs will have to be studied for environmental compliance,” he added.

The proposed law will also include criminal liability for offending government agencies, a portion which current legislation lacks.

“With the Ease of doing Business Act that we are pushing for, we are trying to get rid of all the nightmarish experiences that small and large businessmen as well as micro entrepreneurs experience all over the country,” Zubiri emphasized.

The senator said the bill is currently undergoing the period of debates in the senate and he hopes to pass the law by the end of the year.

Beyond that, the government is also looking at legislating the mentoring program of Go Negosyo in order to help up and coming entrepreneurs.

“I was speaking to [SMIC vice-chairperson Teresita Sy - Coson]," he said, “ and we are going to find way to institutionalize it. It’s a wonderful idea and we have to give [mentors] incentives for doing it”.

Department of Trade and industry (DTI) Undersecretary Nora Terrado meanwhile said technology is changing the world at such a staggering pace that the business’ transactions with the government’s could be reduced to mere minutes.

“There is a tendency [in the government] to place importance on compliance and to create laws that are not future proof If we are working towards 3 days and 3 steps , for all you know it will take 30 mins because our market now is so sophisticated,” she said.

Harmonize intellectual property rights

Another panelist, Singapore Manufacturing federation President Douglas Foo pointed out that the initial aims of ASEAN have been achieved and now is the time for focus on strengthening the region’s economy.

“We are very blessed to be in the region. In 1967 when the idea of  ASEAN was first mooted, it was to bring peace and stability of the region, It wasn’t for the  economy. We’ve actually done that already, “ Foo said.

“The next phase is economic. How do we get [ASEAN’s combined population of] 650 million people to be first a production unit and then a consumption unit before we move into the world market, he added.

While the ASEAN Economic Community formally came into force last year, many of the intitiatives to truly integrate each of the 10 members nations are still on-going.

Foo noted one area of importance, especially in the digital world, is intellectual property rights. He added they should be uniform throughout the region.

“Intellectual property is very important if you  want to see the ASEAN market move forward. They can be harmonized and once set then people won’t be afraid to innovate,” he said. –