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Government eyes online payment scheme to cut red tape

The Department of Finance (DOF) is now in the process of establishing an online-based payment gateway that will enable taxpayers and other state clients to remit fees and other charges electronically to government agencies in line with the Duterte administration’s efforts to cut red tape and further improve the ease of doing business.

Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran said at a recent DOF executive committee (ExeCom) meeting that the payment gateway, dubbed the PHPay system, “will cover the development of a payment gateway and a payment ledgering management system for the whole of government.”

The PHPay system is designed to be a secure and reliable collection system in which government clients can transfer payments online for government services anytime and anywhere, minimizing the need for human contact and eliminating long queues in state offices.

“Taxpayers and other government clients, can however, still opt to use other payment methods even when PHPay is in place,” said Beltran, the DOF’s anti-red tape czar. Beltran updated officials from the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the National Competitiveness Council; along with Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista of this DOF initiative during a recent meeting to discuss the measures being done to improve the ease of doing business in the country.

Complementing this DOF effort, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has minimized the processing time and procedures for paying taxes, registering properties and starting business.

“In the BIR, they cut down the steps of registering a new business from six days to one day. So that’s a big improvement,” said Beltran in his report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III during the DOF Execom meeting.

The BIR also cut the process from 12 to two days, he added.

For paying taxes, the BIR has cut the number of procedures from 20 to only seven steps, while for simple transactions in registering properties, the processing period has been reduced from 15 to six days.

Besides these measures, Beltran said to ease trading across borders, the simple export and import processes of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will be done online.

He said the BOC will tap Tradenet.gov.ph, a fully-owned Philippine government digital platform, which will automate the licensing, permit, clearance, and certification systems for regulatory agencies.

“With Tradenet.gov.ph, imports and exports processing will be done online and completed within a day. Documentary requirements will be reduced significantly and unnecessary information discarded,” Beltran said.

Launched last December, the TradeNet platform will also serve as the Philippines link to the Asean Single Window (ASW) gateway and is expected to minimize the costs of doing business and cut the processing time for the issuance of import and export permits.

The ASW is a regional initiative that aims to speed up cargo clearances and promote economic integration by enabling the electronic exchange of border documents among the organization’s 10 member-states.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are already using the ASW to exchange information on customs clearances.Beltran said TradeNet.gov.ph will allow traders to initially use the system to apply for import and export permits for rice, sugar, used motor vehicles, chemicals (toluene), frozen meat medicines (for humans, animals or fish) and cured tobacco. Besides TradeNet, the DOF implemented several innovations in 2017 anchored on the use of digital technology to improve the ease of doing business and electronically interconnect with other member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to help speed up the region’s economic integration.

These innovations include the establishment of the Philippine Business Data Bank (PBDB); the ongoing computerization program at the Department and the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (BIR) and of Customs (BOC); and the continuing efforts to reduce the procedures and requirements in securing government documents or applications. Beltran said the PBDB, now piloted in Quezon City, will eventually allow the online processing of business permits down to the local government level and targets to cover all 1,634 local government units nationwide within a two-year period.

“Economic zone data will likewise be progressively be made available covering all economic zones in the country,” Beltran has said.

Beltran earlier said the precursor to the PBDB—the Online Unified Business Permit Application Form—is now being fine-tuned to further simplify the process and allow businesses to apply for LGU business permits regardless of location.

He said the DOF and other involved agencies are now “finalizing the data elements” for the online business permit application form so it could be pilot-tested by the first quarter of this year.

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