More than a hundred days into the new administration, how is the business environment in the country doing? How do our trading partner-countries view the Philippines in terms of investments? And what is the plight of our micro entrepreneurs in the countryside?
In the last stretch of President P-Noy's term, he created the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) which the present administration thankfully retained. In addressing the country's global competitiveness, this council reviews outdated and unnecessary government policies that have weighed us down and impacted negatively on our ease of conducting business. NCC Co-Chair Guillermo Luz together with Trade Secretary Mon Lopez have adopted Britain's Red Tape Challenge through the Council's newest program, Project Repeal, the Philippine Red Tape Challenge.
As explained by Sec. Lopez, the bottom line is cutting red tape, period. For business permits and licenses, for instance, the signatures needed to get these permits took at least eight days. Under this present administration, Sec. Lopez promised that this would be cut down to two days and victims of red tape are advised to report the transgression immediately to the DTI.
Bill Luz is bent on simplifying our rules and regulations in this country, saying this is an Administration priority. No less than 57 agencies are working together to make this happen so that by the end of this year, there will be a massive reduction of unnecessary steps and elimination of red tape. They are giving themselves very little room to achieve this but we hope they can get it done before 2017. Aside from Project Repeal, the NCC is also working with DTI to simplify local permits and this agency is working on another worthwhile project: the Livable Cities Challenge. With 145 cities across the country to work on, this is quite a challenge.
Now that the NCC has started cutting red tape, they have also commissioned British consultants to measure the effects of the Red Tape Challenge in terms of cost savings. The British have successfully adopted this program in their government and have standard cost models that can help us with cost estimates in savings when repealing a law.
For the record, the growth of British investments in the Philippines grew by 17% as of latest reckoning, and the UK is the Philippines' fourth largest trading partner.
For the mining sector, hopes are dim from the miners' point of view as articulated by the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines VP for Legal and Policy, Atty. Ronald Recidoro. It is indeed an almost impossible task to balance the interests of the environmentalists and the industrialists especially where mining is concerned, so even the ordinary citizen is hard-pressed for a definite stand. While the Chamber of Mines supports the idea of a comprehensive review and a mining audit, Atty. Recidoro rues the presence of several anti-mining and civic organizations in the team that conducted the audit as this could influence the entire process. After each audit, they would have wanted to be afforded exit interviews or meetings to air their side but were given none, he said.
As things stand today, some 20 companies have been suspended and Sec. Gina Lopez announced that she is not inclined to give new mining permits. Atty. Recidoro, on the other hand, says that almost all of the mining companies save for one or two have complied with the requisite ISO certification. He also cites the Philippines' Mining Act which states that if all requirements have been met, the government has to issue the necessary permits.
He estimates that some ten projects worth P20 billion are in the pipeline and none of them is moving forward. In the midst of this uncertainly, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines reiterates that it is willing to comply with President Duterte's directive of responsible mining.
The government continues to recognize the role of the country's micro, small and medium enterprises in moving our economy forward.Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) is introducing their latest program, EMBRACE or Empowering Barangays in Remote Areas through Credit and Enterprise. The objective is to help out our marginalized farmers, fishermen and small entrepreneurs who have no access to formal financial institutions. It is a program of inclusion that many poor but entrepreneurial folks in the countryside would consider a blessing. This program was approved by the Board of Directors in May 2016. The guidelines have already been prepared though the beneficiaries have not yet been identified.
LBP sends out lending units to far flung towns not yet serviced by it to look for qualified entrepreneurs to avail of their special financial packages. The Bank has identified 200 such towns in the Cordillera, the autonomous region in Northern Luzon, the ARMM and the Samar island provinces. This is sad news for those who hope to get into the program outside of these areas, but then again Land Bank is laying out EMBRACE for areas not yet served by LBP. Regions 3 and 4, for instance, are already well served by Land Bank, but entrepreneurs from these regions can still tap the Bank through their regular lending programs. For EMBRACE, the bank has initially allotted P1 billion for the program, and this figure can readily be increased should the program prove to be effective and successful, meaning the enrolees in EMBRACE prove to be good risks. For the record, LBP has a total loan portfolio of P460 billion and can well serve the country's entrepreneurs.
The loans, stressed LBP, will not be coursed through the local government units, though the bank is prepared to work with them and other organizations. Because EMBRACE is for the unbanked, a borrower should have no previous loans, must have the capacity to pay, and should have a minimum of one year experience in running his enterprise. The loan officers of LBP who will be fielded to these towns and barrios are trained to discern and bring with them the Bank's willingness to lend a helping hand to our micro and small farmers, fishermen and entrepreneurs. We hope that many will take advantage of this special program.
Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.
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