Baguio businessmen rue slow system-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Monday, March 10, 2014
THE president of the influential Baguio-Benguet Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently spoke against the turtle-paced processing of business permits at Baguio City Hall, stressing that this discourages investors.
BBCCI president Benny Balajadia told reporters Friday many businessmen in the city from the chamber and other groups composed of more than 5,000 businesses in the Summer Capital are disappointed at the slow pace of processing of business permits which includes securing other requirements from several offices attached to the local government.
Citing the fire department as example, Balajadia said it take several days before a clearance is secured stressing the agency has a year to carry out inspections in business establishments.
The same goes for other city departments conducting transactions in their offices outside of City Hall when a point person must already be assigned at City Hall’s One-Stop Shop.
Balajadia said in Batangas City, signatories for business permit applications were decreased to one or two while many signatures are needed from clearing officers here in Baguio before is an application is approved or renewed.
“In other cities the signature of the city mayor is already electronically signed. This will lessen processing time. Kahit ito lang. A little delay is always counterproductive,” he said.
He said there is no problem with the city government except for the system of processing business permits which needs to be cut to 30 minutes or even less.
For those applying for local zoning exemptions, the business leader said the city’s Local Zoning Board only meets once to tackle and decide on exemptions adding other agencies need to improve handling of long queues in its offices.
But City Hall’s poor service to businessmen is reflective of the recent competitiveness study conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry among highly urbanized and component cities and first to second-class municipalities.
The city never placed in the Top 10 in various aspects of competitiveness such as economic dynamism, government efficiency and infrastructure while other towns and cities in the region have been placing well including Tabuk City and Apayao towns.
But the Department of Trade Industry quickly absolved the local government of fault adding the National Competitiveness Scorecard was evaluated with incomplete submissions even for Metro Manila cities.
According to Regional Competitiveness program officer Sarah Lope this explains the absence of several economically ahead cities including Makati, Taguig and Manila in the recent competitiveness study.
Lope stressed the competitiveness study helps local governments improve services rendered to the public as well as encourage investments in their towns and cities.
DTI-Cordillera director Myrna Pablo also explained the poor standing of the city in terms of competitiveness saying the local government failed to submit a complete and on-time data on its competitiveness in 2012.
However, Pablo said the local government continues to improve its services in the One-Stop Shop including the implementation of the Electronic Business Permit and Licensing System.
“In fairness to the city mayor and the department officials concerned in processing, they are trying to improve the system,” she said.
In an effort to monitor the city’s competitiveness, members of the National Competitiveness Council visited Baguio last week to monitor the implementation of the EBPLS which gave out good results, Pablo added.
Meanwhile, Mayor Mauricio Domogan pacified concerns of businessmen Monday adding the local government continues improving its services through constant engagement with its clientele and upgrading its business permit and licensing system.
Domogan said at City Hall’s One-Stop Shop, business permit applicants will no longer have to wait long as after filling up a form, this will be scanned in a computer which will read and assess compliance of the applicant to planning and zoning, fire, buildings and architecture, environment and other concerned offices.
He explained only those with deficiencies and problems on clearances will have to wait longer while those who have complied with all requirements will only wait from 30 minutes to 50 minutes for a business permit to be renewed and approved.
He stressed those who often face longer processing time are those seeking exemptions from zoning board as it requires further study and assessment from the City Planning and Development Office and other members of the board.
With the new system the local government will introduce, he said they will address this almost perennial complaint from those transacting at City Hall thus improving the competitiveness and welcoming investors with ease in doing business with the city.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 11, 2014.