The Senate approved on third reading the bill that seeks to grant the President of the Philippines the power to expedite the processing and issuance of permits and licenses during national emergencies.

Senate Hall - Senate passes bill granting President special power to expedite issuance of permits, licenses during national emergencies

Senate Bill No. 1844 was first on the agenda of the chamber for its plenary session after President Duterte certified the measure as urgent.

Duterte, in his letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, said the measure would “facilitate economic activity, accelerate the socioeconomic recovery of the country and ensure the prompt delivery of public services in times of a national emergency such as the present COVID-19 pandemic.”

The bill, if passed and signed into law, would authorize the President to further streamline process for issuance of national and local permits, licenses and certifications during a national emergency.

He shall also have the power to suspend or waive the need to secure of such documents from all agencies under the Executive Branch, as well as government-owned and controlled corporations and local government units. 

Before its second reading approval last Monday, SB No. 1844 was amended to likewise authorize allow the President to make permanent the streamlined regulatory processes and procedures, as well as the suspension of the requirement, in consultation or upon the recommendation of concerned government agencies.

The proposed authority, however, “shall not undermine” existing procedures and applicable laws that are “meant to protect the environment, especially those that aim to safeguard protected areas and its buffer zones, and environmentally-critical areas.”

The bill also reiterates the President’s authority to suspend or remove erring government officials or employees as provided under the measure. 

The passage of the measure was in response to Duterte’s appeal for legislation to further address red tape and corruption in government. He had expressed frustration and repeated that he was mulling to resign due to the difficulty of solving these.

“This is (a) victory for all of us. And hopefully the executive department will start reviewing now the processes involved in certifications, licenses and permits…We hope that with this measure, the President will be able to cut the times even shorter,” said Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, author of the Ease of Doing Business Act.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go thanked his colleagues for heeding Duterte’s call against red tape.

“We may be on different sides of the fence about certain issues but on this important legislation, we are united and sana po tuloy-tuloy itong kampanya natin laban sa korapsyon sa gobyerno (I hope that this campaign against corruption will continue). I hope this is the start of real change on how we deliver public services,” Go, who served as Duterte’s long-time assistant, told his colleagues.

Principal authors of the SB No. 1844 were Sotto, Recto, Zubiri, Panfilo Lacson, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon. All other senators were later made co-authors and co-sponsors to the bill.

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