The Philippines is still aiming to be part of the top third of the Doing Business rankings by year-end, notwithstanding the decline in its ranking last year.

The government’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Task Force, in a briefing on Thursday, said recent reforms in business registration and taxation will help achieve this goal.

The goal set by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) at the start of the current administration aims to improve the country’s ranking to at least 63rd in the EODB.

“Our goal, once upon a time—if we take a look at Ease of Doing Business—we were 148 in the world [and] that’s in the bottom third of the world. We wanted to move up to the top third of the world…[so] must be at 63rd or better…by 2016… so we have our work cut out for us because we’re still a long way from there but we have improved from 148 to 103rd,” NCC Private Sector Cochairman Guillermo M. Luz said.

Some of these reforms were recently implemented by various agencies of the government, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Quezon City local government, which is the basis for the EODB rankings.
At the SEC, the government has been able to reduce the number of steps and days to start a business.

In 2015 there were 16 steps that can be completed in 29 days. But in 2016 this has been reduced to six steps, which can be accomplished in eight days.

The ultimate goal for 2017 is to reduce this further to three steps that can be accomplished in three days. Luz said this can be done through automation and further streamlining of processes and procedures.

SEC Company Registration and Monitoring Department Director Ferdinand B. Sales said the SEC has also set up satellite offices in malls and provinces where entrepreneurs can access the Integrated Business Registration System (IBRS).

The IBRS allows entrepreneurs to get a SEC registration number, BIR Tax Identification Number, and Employers Registration Numbers for Social Security System, Pag-Ibig and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. in one application in a single location.

“[The] single transaction now takes place at [the] SEC Head Office and selected satellite offices,” Sales said.

The satellite offices are Ali Mall, SM Manila, SM North Edsa and Robinsons Galleria. A Makati satellite office will also be set up at the ground floor of the Department of Trade and Industry office.

The IBRS, Sales said, has also been deployed in their satellite office in Tarlac in March 2016 and will be available in Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro by next month.

In terms of taxes, BIR Operations Group Deputy Commissioner Nelson M. Aspe said the bureau has already launched the use of GCash transactions for electronic tax filings on April 12. Aspe said GCash transactions, which allow tax payments to a maximum of P100,000, has reached 193 and generated total collections of P664,591. He also noted the near-600-percent increase in electronic filings in 2016 to 941,997, from 128,989 in 2015.

On the part of the local government, City Administrator Aldrin C. Cuña said Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista has recently signed a partnership agreement with the Land Bank of the Philippines that allows taxpayers to pay their local taxes anytime, anywhere.

Cuña said it also offers the QC easyPay menu, where taxpayers can settle their business and real property taxes through online banking, point of sale using Bancnet automated teller machine and debit cards, and mobile money through GCash and Mynt.

He added that the local government will soon allow the payment of local taxes using credit cards.

Meanwhile, Luz said the Philippines’s performance has been improving in the past five years. Except in the 2016 rankings, the country’s performance has been improving year after year.

In 2016 the country’s ranking declined to 103rd from 95th in 2015. The World Bank earlier explained that the reason for the decline is that the country was only able to institute one reform and other countries in the world implemented more.

Nonetheless, Luz said, the Philippines is one of the countries that are considered the biggest gainers in the Doing Business Report since it has overtaken 45 countries in the past five years.

This performance is mirrored in three other global competitiveness rankings, such as the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report, The Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index, and Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

In the Global Competitiveness report, the Philippines improved its ranking by 38 notches; Economic Freedom Index, 39 notches; and Corruption Perception Index, 39 notches in the past five years.

“Our performance for the last five years from 2011 to 2015, we’ve overtaken 38 to 45 economies in the world, across that period. So that makes the Philippines one of the most-improved economies, not the best, but at least representing the biggest jumps for four out of 12 reports that we track. The other four, we still have improvements but not as big as these [indices],” Luz said.

In the 2016 Doing Business report released in October 2015, the Philippines was the Asean country that registered the largest decline in the rankings.

Singapore retained its number one ranking for the 10th consecutive year while Hong Kong maintained its fifth ranking overall.

Vietnam was considered among this year’s best performers which saw its ranking improve to 90th in the 2016 report from 93rd in the previous year.

For the 2016 report, the country introduced only one improvement in its business processes, which is to make it easier to start a business by expediting the process of issuing an employer registration number.

The government was able to do this by streamlining communications between the SEC and SSS.

As seen on Business Mirror by Cai Ordinario