By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com | 02/07/2013 8:38 PM
MANILA – It may be fun to be a tourist in the Philippines but the same cannot be said for people who want to do business in the country, Sen. Edgardo Angara said Thursday.
Angara, who chaired the 5th Global Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption in Manila, said the Philippines may be leading the ASEAN in the number of laws against corruption but it is not the gold standard in corruption-free governance in the region.
"We have more than enough laws. There was a study of all the ASEAN countries to find out who has the most anti-corruption laws and regulations. We topped it but we cannot honestly say we are also the top-notcher in cleanliness," he told ANC’s Headstart.
The lawmaker said that in a recent development forum in Davao City, it was learned that it takes 133 signatures before a renewable energy project could be started in the Philippines.
"Imagine the delay that it will entail and the facilitation money. Imagine the number of drawers opened if there are 133 signatures needed to start your business. That's 133 drawers," he said.
The senator also noted it takes 33 signatures - from the barangay chairman to city hall - to build a house in a private subdivision.
“It may sound petty but imagine the cost, if you compare the cost of doing business and the aggravation. Worse, you are telling outsiders that it is difficult to do business in Manila. It may be fun to be a tourist but it is very difficult to be a businessman or entrepreneur,” he said.
Angara said the Philippines needs to only look at the examples set by Denmark and Singapore to see that corruption can be curbed drastically.
He said Singapore started its anti-corruption drive by raising the salaries of the 3 most critical sectors that regularly impact the daily lives of people. The 3 are judges and prosecutors, police officers and teachers.
"Kapag corrupt na tapos unjust pa ang system, that's an explosive situation for unrest. Once they had done that, they slowly raised the incentive and reward system for the rest of the bureaucracy. You get an incentive to do your job cleanly and not having to indulge in petty graft," he said.
What can PNoy do?
Angara said President Aquino can help businessmen by issuing an executive order that will audit the regulatory powers of all government bureaus, agencies and departments.
He said the regulatory audit should have a check list of all the signatures and permits needed in doing business.
"Make a list now of all the regulations that you are implementing and tell me is Rule 1 necessary? If not, cross out. Is this duplicative? Is this antiquated and old? Siguro from 133 signatures baka ma-reduce to 10. From 33 signatures for housing baka 4 na lang matira," he said.
He also noted Transparency International chairwoman Huguette Labelle’s warning that corruption can come from politicians who are beholden to vested interests. He said this usually happens from campaign contributors who invest heavily on candidates during election season.
"When there is no institutionalized party system and regulation of campaign finance and full disclosure on who spent for what, you can buy a politician through election," he said.
Angara said the government should require an accounting of political campaign contributions including who gave the contributions.
He also backed calls for state-subsidized political parties instead of parties dominated by one person or financed by vested interests. He said political parties in Malaysia and Singapore are subsidized “precisely to make them less dependent on donations of vested interests.”
Angara said the international community is now paying more attention on corruption because of its effect on a country.
"The international community now has reached a consensus that corruption is a plague on our houses, that we must fight it like a famine or a plague. Why is it a plague? Because corruption unwittingly robs more the poor, the women and the children, the vulnerable... What you take away from taxes or withhold from paying in taxes, what you steal from infrastructure are common goods that benefit the poor rather than the rich," he said.