Project Repeal: In Search of Regulatory Relief

Project Repeal

Entrepreneurs are often told they are the backbone and job-generators of the economy. And yet, life is made difficult for them because of too much regulation. Businesses (and indeed individuals) are saddled by too much regulation. Regulation, by itself, is necessary but too much of it can dampen the entrepreneurial spirit and hamper economic development. Regulation is felt at different levels of government, from the Executive branch to Congress to Local Governments. Our laws and regulations also date back many decades, all the way back to the Commonwealth period, Martial Law, and the current era of post-People Power government. All these have resulted in multiple layers of laws, rules, and regulations. The question is : are all these laws and regulations necessary and relevant ? Have they ever been reviewed for consistency ? And could some be detrimental to the economy ?

With this in mind, we created Project Repeal, a project to establish a systematic way of studying rules, regulations, and laws which have outlived their relevance or have been overtaken by developments. It is an initiative to clean up regulations and legislation by repealing provisions or rules which are no longer necessary or which may be detrimental to the economy. The overall goal is to reduce the cost of compliance for entrepreneurs and the cost of administration and enforcement for the government. The program has been patterned after similar exercises in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Korea.

We hope to make this a long-term and continuing program of government since thousands of rules and regulations have been created or passed into law over the last few decades. To start off the program, we have focused first on Departmental Orders issued by Cabinet Departments or their attached agencies. Over time, we plan to expand this program to identify and analyze Executive Orders, Republic Acts, and even local government ordinances which affect the economy. It is our view that repealing unnecessary regulations will have a positive impact on businesses and entrepreneurs and will boost economic activity and spur growth.

For Project Repeal to work well, it has to be a collaborative effort run in an institutionalized manner over a long period of time. The volume and variety of rules and regulations is simply too large for any single agency of government or institution to handle. The initial identification of rules and regulations for potential repeal will need to come from government itself as well as the public, whether by individuals or businesses. In this regard, the National Competitiveness Council has invited agencies, organizations, and individuals to submit specific laws, rules and regulations which people find to be overly cumbersome, unnecessary, or even detrimental to the economy. Suggestions are then reviewed by the appropriate technical working groups before they are returned to the head of agency for proper action.

We are encouraged by the initial response, particularly from government agencies. In truth, several agencies were already working on their individual initiatives before Project Repeal got underway. The Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Finance, for instance, were reviewing their respective Department Administrative Orders (DAOs). The Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Tourism, and NEDA had also been working on their own regulatory impact assessment projects for some time now. And, of course, the Civil Service Commission has been the lead implementor of the Anti Red-Tape Act since 2007.

Since our call to other agencies to join this project, many have stepped forward. From an initial group of eight agencies, an additional 24 agencies have now joined the project. A total of 22,599 rules and regulations have been submitted for review. Take note that these cover only departmental level issuances (including those of attached agencies) so you can just imagine how many laws exist across all levels of government. This initial stocktake validates our early thinking that this will require a permanent effort in government if we are going to make serious headway to clean up old laws.

Of this number, 3,765 rules and regulations have been acted on. There are basically four types of action available. The first is to simply delist a rule, which happened to 1,877 of them. We’ve found that many rules have actually already been repealed years ago but have remained on government websites or agency lists; in effect, they may have been enforced (and businesses may have been forced to comply). The second option is to repeal, which happened to 1,873 of them. In these cases, these rules have simply outlived their usefulness and relevance. The third course of action was to amend, which happened in five cases. This was basically to simplify or streamline a rule. The fourth course of action was to consolidateor pull together regulations which are scattered across a number of issuances; this basically makes it more time-consuming for businesses to search for an item. This occurred in 22 cases. Additional cases were also reviewed but set aside for the moment since they required Congressional action.

It’s still early days for this project but we feel there is great potential for this to have a serious effect on making life easier for businesses and individuals.