MANILA, Philippines – Setting up a business is about to get easier as the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) launched its streamlining efforts for such—a bid to rank higher at next year’s World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report.
One of the highlights of such efforts is the significant reduction of business registration process from 16 steps in 29 days in 2015 to six steps in eight days this year.
“We aim to have the business registration process to be eventually cut to three steps in three days, the same as Singapore’s. That’s our benchmark,” NCC Co-Chairman Guillermo Luz said in a press conference on Thursday, April 21.
The country currently ranks 103rd out of 198 economies, an 8-point drop from 2014’s standing. Luz said the agency aims to improve the country's standing at 63rd place by 2017.
“The country ranked the lowest in two indicators: ‘paying taxes’ and ‘starting a business.’ We hope to change that with these amendments,” Luz added.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as part of the Ease of Doing Business Task Force, launched the Integrated Business Registration System (IBRS) for corporations and partnerships where companies may register their SEC registration number;BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) tax identification number;and Social Security System’ employers’ registration number: Pag-IBIG; and Philhealth in a single location.
The IBRS is currently available in the SEC’s head office and satellite offices in Ali Mall, Robinsons Galleria, SM North EDSA, and SM Manila. Extension offices in Cebu, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro will open within the year.
Another agency that has gone digital is the BIR, which also launched this April the GCash or mobile payments for income tax returns (ITRs). The agency received 193 mobile payments with a 537% increase in electronic filings so far this year.
“The government is going mobile and digital to make it more convenient for customers. The emphasis is not only in national level but in local government units too,” Luz added.
For its part, Quezon City partnered with Landbank for its 24/7 online tax payment service. Any business owner that has an account with the institution can now pay for its local taxes online. A credit card payment scheme is also in the works which will be launched within the year.
Another digitized government agency is Philhealth which introduced its electronic payment remittance system (EPRS), which allows business owners to also pay remittances online, in collaboration with Security Bank (launched since November 2015), LANDBANK, and Union Bank (to be deployed by May 2016).
But one of NCC’s more aggressive undertaking is “Project Repeal: The Philippine Red Tape Challenge,” which aims to clean up “irrelevant laws and regulations” that may be impeding business processes in the country.
“We have already received 60 proposals from the business community so far. As the Congress is not in session, we are tackling departmental resolutions first,” Luz added.
The agency focuses on reducing costs for businesses and the government alike in terms of compliance and enforcement. Similar efforts were done in South Korea, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The public may also send their recommendations at project.repeal[at]competitiveorg.ph.
Laws for signing
Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina also reported the progress of two laws that would hopefully improve the country’s standing on “Trading Across Borders” indicator.
“Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Transport and Communications Secretary Emilio Abaya already signed the implementing rules and regulations of the Foreign Ships Co-Loading Act, which means freight costs will soon drop,” Lina added.
Lina also reported the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), which will put the country’s tariff practices on a par with international standards, will be signed by President Benigno Aquino III before the month ends.
“We're also trying to remove pockets of customs officials and office drawers as per suggestion of one senator,” Lina quipped, pertaining to senator and vice presidential bet's Franchis "Chiz" Escudero's recommendation at the first vice presidential debate on April 10.
Elyssa Christine Lopez is entrepreneur.com.ph’s editorial assistant/staff writer. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz.