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Senate OKs Duterte anti-red tape powers

CNN Philippines — ​Senators approved a bill granting President Rodrigo Duterte the special power to cut red tape in the processing of government license and permit applications within hours after Malacañang said it was an urgent measure.

Voting 23-0, senators approved Senate Bill 1844 on the same day it received a letter from the Executive asking to fast-track its approval.

The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, who shared a copy of Duterte’s letter to Senate President Tito Sotto III.

The measure expedites the release of permits and licenses by both national agencies and local governments during national emergencies by allowing the President to shorten wait times or suspend and waive requirements to secure permits, licenses, clearances, certifications, or authorizations.

The President said this authority is needed to “facilitate economic activity,” accelerate recovery, and ensure the prompt delivery of public services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate bill was proposed by Sotto, Zubiri, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and senators Ralph Recto and Panfilo Lacson on September 22 and approved on second reading last Monday.

Duterte’s certification allowed the chamber to approve the measure on third and final reading without waiting for the required three days, or just before Congress goes on its month-long break on Friday. A similar version must be approved by the House of Representatives.

Duterte earlier expressed frustration over the slow and tedious process in securing regulatory permits, saying this paved the way for corruption.

The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act includes a special provision that speeds up the approval of permits to build cell towers nationwide after Duterte complained about the poor service of telecommunications firms Smart and Globe. The problem was traced to the delay in the release of government permits which then slows down the construction of more cell sites for improved connectivity.