LAOAG CITY—The Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) rolled into the city of Laoag on September 16. With the help of the Philippine Information Agency-Region 1 and the Northwestern University, state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) convened academe and local government officials, and university students in a forum that tackled this year’s DPRM theme, "Tamang Regulasyon para sa Patuloy na Pag-Ahon".

Dr. Sheila Siar, director of the Research Information Department of PIDS, shared the purpose of the 13th DPRM celebration and the importance of the theme.

The diverse panel of discussants included Mr. Benjamin Garcia, provincial director of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Ms. Susan Gagarin, assistant chief of the Provincial Land Transportation Office, and Mr. Ronald John P Gabriel, officer-in- charge of the Licensing Division Office at Batac City.

"The DPRM is a nationwide advocacy," explained Siar. "To be effective, to be more relevant, for our policies and programs to be more responsive to the needs of our people, our policies must be based on research evidence."

The theme for this year’s DPRM focuses on the country’s need to establish a strong regulatory management system.

"To further prepare for the ASEAN Economic Community, the Philippines needs to create a more competitive business environment. To realize this, we need laws and regulations that are less burdensome for local and foreign investors," Siar said.

A poor regulatory environment, which is rooted in poorly crafted or weakly implemented regulations, creates regulatory failures that restrict growth. They diminish the benefits of economic growth and render progress less inclusive and less sustainable by discouraging participation and leaving out potential investors and business.

The open forum focused on what local governments are doing to improve their regulatory processes and enhance the ease of doing business in their respective agencies.

Simplifying government procedures

Gabriel shared the best practices adopted so far by Batac City.

Business applications in Batac are now conducted in a one-stop shop where all the necessary offices—Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and DTI, among others—may be accessed under one roof throughout the application review and approval process. The local government has also initiated services like delivery of approved permits in case applicants are not available to claim them. Batac is also one of a handful of cities in the region that has adopted the electronic business permit process and licensing system to hasten the process of issuing business permits and licenses.

Meanwhile, Garcia of the provincial DTI office shared the efforts of the Regional Competitiveness Council, a mirror of the National Competitiveness Council, to improve the region’s standing in the competitiveness index.

Not too long ago, regional offices had to send all applications for business name registration to Manila for approval. The regional mandate was only charged to check the applications for completeness. During the administration of Former President Fidel Ramos, the authority to sign business name certificates was delegated to the DTI provincial directors. The registration functions were further delegated to the provincial offices under the Arroyo administration, with the adoption of the national database checking.

Under the Aquino administration, business names can now be registered in 10 minutes minus the queuing time.

Recent innovations also include the online filing of business name application. DTI is currently developing an e-payment system to offer complete online services.

In terms of promoting consumer welfare, Garcia said the local DTI runs on a ‘no wrong door’ policy whereby it entertains all queries and complaints. If these do no fall under their authority, Garcia said they do not turn people away but direct them to the proper agency.

The provincial LTO has also aligned the simplification of driver’s licenses and car registration with national standards. According to Gagarin, the nationwide changes to car plates have made coordination easier between other agencies and regional LTO offices. The new car plate sequence no longer relies on alphanumerical codes to indicate the place of car registration. Instead, the new car plates being issued today indicate the region of issue, making it easier for agencies to coordinate and verify with LTO offices across the country over interregional investigations.

In addition, the provincial LTO offices can now print the driver’s licenses they issue. They no longer have to wait for the licenses to be printed in Manila, which normally takes six months to complete, Gagarin said.

Further research and cooperation

Siar praised the local government representatives for introducing innovations to improve the ease of doing business and enhance the quality of regulations in their respective offices.

She emphasized the importance of interagency coordination, as some regulations specific to one sector may have negative effects on other sectors.

As promoted by the DPRM celebration, proper conduct of policy research and close coordination between regulatory bodies, line agencies, and local government are essential to improving regulatory quality and ensuring a more sustainable economic growth. ###

If you wish to know more about the Development Policy Research Month, please visit this link.

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