Senate tackles bill granting President power to expedite permits during nat’l emergencies

Published October 8, 2020, 1:06 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate has started plenary discussion on the bill which seeks to grant the President of the Philippines the power to expedite the processing and issuance of permits and licenses during national emergencies.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri (Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri sponsored on Wednesday Senate Bill No.1844.

In endorsing the approval of the bill, Zubiri said he was frustrated that red tape still exists in government despite the enactment of the law addressing it and the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the sponsor and author of the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, it pains me to see how bureaucratic red tape continues to persist, even now, in the middle of this pandemic,” he lamented.

“It seems some of our bureaucrats remain undeterred by the EODB Law, choosing instead to stick to their old, slow ways, despite the very urgent needs of our people during this crisis,” he added.

He pointed out that excessive bureacracy has hampered “the most crucial of COVID-19 response, such as the delivery of much-needed medical supplies and goods, and the construction of infrastructures such as communication towers.”

The bill, if passed and signed into law, would authorize the President to further streamline the process for the issuance of national and local permits, licenses, and certifications in times of national emergency.

The Chief Executive shall also have the power to suspend or waive the need to secure such documents from all agencies under the Executive branch, as well as government-owned and controlled corporations and local government units.

In the committee report signed by 18 senators, the bill was proposed to be amended to also allow the President to make permanent the streamlined regulatory processes and procedures, as well as the suspension, in consultation or upon the recommendation of concerned government agencies.

Under the committee-approved bill, however, the proposed authority for the President “shall not undermine” existing procedures and applicable laws that are meant to protect the environment, “especially those that aim to safeguard protected areas and its buffer zones, and environmentally critical areas.”

This provision was inserted following the appeal of Sen. Cynthia Villar, who had earlier raised concern that the measure would be used railroad reclamation projects in the Manila Bay.

The bill also reiterates the President’s authority to suspend or remove erring government officials or employees as provided under the measure.

“Which is really in his powers, under the Constitution,” Zubiri said.

President Duterte recently aired frustration over the red tape and corruption in the bureaucracy, saying anew that he wanted to resign because of this. He met leaders of Congress to address the problem.

Aside from Zubiri, principal authors of the bill were Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

The bill was supported by Sens. Ramon Revilla Jr., Christopher Go, Ronald dela Rosa, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Pia Cayetano, Joel Villanueva, and Richard Gordon.

Other senators were made co-authors and co-sponsors of the measure.