MANILA - The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a bill that gives the President special powers to "expedite the processing and issuance of national and local licenses, permits, and certifications" in times of emergency, hours after Malacañang certified the measure against red tape as urgent.
Voting 23-0, senators approved the measure, calling it a "victory" for all Filipinos.
"This is a good accompanying measure to the Ease of Doing Business [Act]," Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said in plenary.
"The president will now be emboldened to remove more people for their ineptitude and incompetence in government service," said Zubiri, who heralded the passage of the Anti-Red Tap Act in previous Congresses.
"We hope that with this measure, the President will be able to cut the [processing] times even shorter," he said.
Under Senate Bill No. 1844, the chief executive will be allowed to "suspend the requirements for national and local permits, licenses and certifications" to "accelerate and streamline regulatory processes" in government.
Under the measure, the President will also be allowed to "suspend or remove" any government official who will be proven to have delayed the issuance of documents to any individual or corporation.
Senators Christopher "Bong" Go and Richard Gordon said the measure should remind government agencies to deliver quality service to the public even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We must be fast... that is the rule of the game now," Gordon said.
"We must be focused on what we are doing. We have to be friendly... flexible... and forward-looking," he said.
"I hope this is the start of real change on how we deliver public service," Go said in plenary.
"Magtulungan at magbayanihan po tayo para matanggal ang red tape at corruption sa ating burukrasya," the senator said in a separate statement.
(Let us work together to get rid of red tape and corruption from our bureaucracy.)
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier met with Senate and House leaders to ask for the passage of a measure that would eliminate red tape and corruption in government.
He offered to be invited as a resource person during the bill's deliberations, but did not push through with his Senate appearance.
In July, Duterte mandated all government agencies to adopt new technologies to make "physical queue a thing of the past" as the Philippines tried to limit movement in confined spaces to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The passage of the measure also comes as the government pushes to restart economic activity after the global pandemic shut down several businesses during the first quarter of 2020.
"The President wants government agencies to be more responsive in the present COVID-19 pandemic and one way to realize this is to improve the delivery of public sevices," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told Palace reporters.
"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," he said.
Sen. Leila de Lima was the lone senator who was unable to cast her vote on the measure as she remains detained due to drug-related charges, which she has repeatedly denied involvement.
- With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News