Malacañang backlog

Business confidence is high and there are foreign investors waiting to set up shop in the Philippines. Their planned investments are valued at billions and can create thousands of meaningful jobs. Now if only the government could speed up the required processes for clinching those investment deals.

Instead investors are starting to express impatience and hinting that they might just bring their plans and job opportunities elsewhere in Asia. This is according to Charito Plaza, director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, who is lamenting the delay in the proclamation of new economic zones. The PEZA chief said the delay could lead to the withdrawal of foreign investment pledges secured by the country.

President Duterte has promised to cut red tape. With his home city of Davao as the model, he has directed executive agencies to limit the waiting time for the release of business permits and other ordinary government documents to no more than three days. He may want to check out the reason for the delay in the approval of the new economic zones, which Plaza traced to the Office of the President itself and his executive secretary.

Plaza said several locators whose proposed investments have been approved by PEZA have been asked by their foreign principals about the long wait for the approval of the new zones. So far, 16 new economic zones have been proclaimed, with applications for 46 others pending with the Office of the President. The investments involved amount to more than P30 billion, Plaza said.

While looking into this case, the President should also assess compliance with his directive to cut red tape. Later this month he will deliver his second State of the Nation Address. Part of his report card to the nation should be the status of his avowed efforts to reduce red tape, which opens opportunities for corruption. He has also said he wants to make it easier to do business in this country. Addressing the delay in his own office would be a good start.

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