Manila, 30 March 2021 - Overly restrictive regulations suppress the growth and competitiveness of an economy. To improve the country’s business climate and attract trade and investments, the incumbent administration has made cutting red tape a policy priority.

One of the administration’s early policy achievements was the signing of a landmark ease of doing business law in 2018 that mandates the government to streamline administrative processes and improve overall regulatory quality. In keeping with the "whole-of-government" approach, the Philippine Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), together with other government agencies have also launched phase one of the central business portal designed to reduce overlapping and unnecessary administrative burdens by serving as a one-stop-shop for business registrations.

More recently, amidst the ongoing pandemic, another key piece of legislation, the Bayanihan Act 2, was signed into law that authorizes the President to implement actions and exercise powers to jump start the economy, including the waiver of government permits or expediting their issuance to accelerate implementation of infrastructure programs and projects.

The government's regulatory guillotine campaign is a work in progress that requires buy-in from stakeholders, including the private sector, to see long-term gains. As economic activity remains subdued during the COVID-19 pandemic, a seamless regulatory environment and the efficient delivery of government services are crucial to rallying investments.

Against this backdrop, the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) hosted a webinar entitled Regulatory Guillotine: Cutting the Red Tape and Rolling the Red Carpet for Business on 19 March 2021.

During the virtual session, Corporate & Commercial/M&A Partner Ma. Luisa Fernandez-Guina presented on common challenges to doing business in the Philippines, including certain foreign entity restrictions, minimum paid-up capital requirements, and the timeline and regulatory requirements for setting up a business in the Philippines. She noted, "a number of policy reforms are currently underway to address these challenges, such as efforts to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution to allow greater foreign ownership in certain economic activities, as well as amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investment Act to reduce or lift foreign equity restrictions and lower minimum paid-up capital requirements." Luisa co-heads the firm’s Consumer Goods & Retail Industry Group and is a member of the Healthcare & Life Sciences Industry Group.

The session welcomed Hon. Jeremiah Belgica, director general of the ARTA, who discussed its current initiatives and proposed policy reforms to simplify administrative procedures in the "next normal" of doing business in the Philippines. Other speakers from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development were also present to discuss regulatory reform best practices in other countries and how such success stories could visibly translate to economic benefits in the form of increased trade and investments, job creation, and overall competitiveness.