The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved on third and final reading a bill granting President Rodrigo Duterte special powers to speed up the issuance of government licenses and permits during national emergencies such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Voting 23-0, senators approved Senate Bill 1844 or An Act Authorizing the President to Expedite the Processing and Issuance of National and Local Permits, Licenses, and Certifications.
The measure was approved within hours after Duterte certified the measure as urgent.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte wanted government agencies to be “more responsive” in the present health crisis and one way to realize this is to improve the delivery of public services.
“The Chief Executive hopes by simplifying processes and cutting red tape in the Executive branch we will be able to facilitate our country’s economic activity and accelerate socioeconomic recovery, for the betterment of our people,” Roque said.
Duterte, in his letter, said the passage seeks “to facilitate economic activity, accelerate the socioeconomic recovery of the country, and ensure the prompt delivery of public services in times of national emergency such as the present Covid-19 pandemic.”
The President’s certification allowed the Senate to approve the measure on third and final reading without waiting for the required three days or before Congress goes on its month-long break starting Friday.
The Senate approved the special powers bill on second reading last Monday.
Senate Bill No. 1844 covers all government agencies under the executive branch.
It gives the President power to “accelerate and streamline” regulatory processes and procedures for new or pending applications from businesses for government permits, licenses, clearances, certifications, or authorizations.
The President may fix or shorten the periods for the processing and release of these documents. He may also suspend or waive the requirements for securing them.
He may also prescribe that the streamlined processes and procedures implemented under the measure be made permanent.
The bill was principally authored by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senator Panfilo Lacson.
The House of Representatives has yet to pass a counterpart measure to Senate Bill No. 1844.
Duterte has repeatedly expressed frustrations over the persistence of bureaucratic red tape in previous speeches. (PNA)