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MAKING CITY HALL MORE BUSINESS-FRIENDLY

Government bureaucracy. These two words are guaranteed to give a businessman stress. Especially when it might take a full year to get hold of a mayor’s permit if one’s business is in Quezon City. Or when a mayor’s permit can cost fuel station owners in Manila and Navotas between P65,000.00 and P90,000.00 because these cities include fuel sales in their tax assessments, despite an explicit prohibition in IRR 232 of the Local Government Code.

While obtaining a local business permit is not a nuisance for the majority of petroleum dealers, it is an annual chore that can be made into a pleasant experience for retailers and their representatives, if the transaction were simplified and processing time reduced.

The Federation of Petroleum Dealers of the Philippines was therefore happy to convene, together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Conference on Simplification of Procedures in the Issuance of Business Permits, which was held April 24-25, 2003, at the Century Park Hotel, Manila. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), and League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LCMP) were also co-convenors .

Among the topics covered were:

    1. A need to bring coherence to the confusing jumble of standards for service station fire safety equipment required by the Bureau of Fire Safety (BFS.) A amendment to the Fire Code that will base service station safety equipment requirements on fuel storage capacity is reportedly being drafted. A meeting that will allow the Federation to share its thoughts with the BFS is being arranged by the Department of Energy.
    2. Erroneous mayor’s permit assessments levied by Manila City Hall on some retailers in violation of the Local Government Code. The Manila City Treasurer invited the Federation to review over-payments made.
    3. The need to encourage local government units to replicate model sites like Manila City Hall’s One-Stop Shop for business permits, which has reduced processing time and taken steps to curb graft. A DILG survey shows that it can take anywhere from as little as 3 minutes to as long as 30 days to get a mayor’s permit.
    4. The need to standardize the number of documents required by local government units. Pre-requisite documents may vary from a low of two to a high of 15. Also needed a reduction of the many clearances required by the national and local governments.
    5. The need to simplify procedures in government offices that are not yet computerized, or better still, to computerize these.
    6. A proposal that allows renewal of permits on a staggered basis and extends payment of business taxes up to July 20 of every fiscal year.

"We are just beginning," Bureau of Local Government Supervision Director Rolando Acosta reminded the Convenors. "We must meet again to assess whether the issues raised have been satisfactorily addressed."

The Federation will do its share in prodding the DILG to ensure that the time and resources poured into the project are not wasted. But true bureaucratic reform goes beyond the One-Stop Shop approach. It is hoped that the business sector, with the Federation’s support, will push for more Government initiatives that result an efficient responsive bureaucracy.

 
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The Dealer's Forum is the official newsletter of ACDPI. It is published thrice a year.