Republic Act No. 1137, previously signed by President Duterte on April 26, has finally been released to the media, aiming to “strengthen, promote, and develop” the Philippine startup ecosystem.

Also known as the Innovative Startup Act, this legislation will create the Philippine Startup Development Program, set to offer “programs, benefits, and incentives” for both startups and enablers (entities that offer them crucial support). It was initially proposed by Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV in 2017 but was approved just last April 26, 2019.

Tasked to lead the project are the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

These host agencies will coordinate with the Board of Investors (BOI) to create a Startup Investment Development Plan, which aims to “spur investment in, and promote the growth and development of, startups and startup enablers”.

Promoting ease of business

Part of the act’s benefits is entitlement to various privileges which will make it easier for the beneficiaries to run their businesses.

Startups and enablers can enjoy subsidies for business registration application costs and facilities, equipment, and services from both the private and public sector.

The host agencies will also be coordinating with local government units (LGU) to facilitate their registration in Philippine Startup Ecozones, Special Economic Zones declared by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

Investors, enablers, and foreign owners and employees of locally-registered startups will be issued special startup visas by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). These visas will further exempt them from securing an Alien Employment Permit (AEP) typically issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Encouraging innovation

There are also various programs and incentives to help encourage innovation across and among different fields.

Each host agency will have a Startup Grant Fund meant to provide initial and supplemental support to qualified applicants. DTI and the National Development Company (NDC) will also administer a Startup Venture Fund to match investments from selected investors to local startups.

To further promote participation in local and international startup events, startups and enablers may be endorsed for prioritized processing of travel documents and subsidized for various airfare costs. Per diem allowance will also be provided.

As for the academe, the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and Technical Educational and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) are tasked to develop entrepreneurial programs to “foster an environment conducive to innovation”. They may also extend incentives to academic institutions that help fund related research.