A soldier checks the body temperature of health workers before entering a free shuttle service following the suspension of mass transportation to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Quezon City, March 20. — REUTERS

GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, including local government units (LGUs), are being urged to simplify and streamline procedures and requirements as the country is under a state of national emergency due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

In an advisory released on Wednesday, the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) identified several measures that all government agencies can implement to speed up the delivery of government services.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday signed a law that granted him emergency powers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and placed the country under a state of national emergency for three months unless extended.

ARTA recommended the “emergency” extension of the validity of permits, licenses and certifications that are expiring, especially those whose applications for renewal or extension may not be filed during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

It also said agencies may also consider accepting and approving applications and reports through e-mail and online platforms, on the condition that there are security measures in place.

“Further, it is suggested that these transactions be subjected to post-audits when able,” it added.

ARTA said that agencies may also consider suspending the notarization requirement for documents, noting that the submission of false documents, notarized or otherwise, is punishable by law.

Government agencies may also process incomplete applications that may be completed “when conditions normalize,” ARTA said. These include using electronically signed or pre-signed licenses and authorizations and using alternate signatories when the authorized signatory is on official business or leave.

Payments may also be processed online or through outsourced payment collection centers. ARTA said that agencies should consider waiving or deferring payments if the said options are not possible.

ARTA also encouraged agencies to submit copies of regulations to the University of the Philippines — Office of National Administrative Register electronically to give legal effect to their issuances.

The advisory is a response to Mr. Duterte’s call to cut red tape in a national address on Tuesday, ARTA said in a statement.

“We would like to remind all agencies to adopt a zero red-tape policy, especially in this emergency situation during which red tape literally kills,” ARTA Director General Jeremiah B. Belgica said. “To deliberately commit red tape at this time of global emergency is unforgivable.”

Meanwhile, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is prohibiting the imposition or collection of additional port charges and fees, including the hazard fee.

PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago issued the notice to shipping companies, terminal operators, cargo handling operators, pilots and pilots’ associations, private ports and port service providers, port managers, and other port stakeholders.

This after the Quezon Harbor Pilots Association Inc. released an open letter dated March 23, informing the public that it will be collecting “P60,000 as additional pilots’ health hazard fee for every vessel that they will be assisting in Quezon ports.”

“The PPA clarified that neither its office nor its Board has granted the authority to impose additional charges or fees to any terminal operator, cargo handling operator, pilots and pilots’ associations, private port operators, and port service providers, including the Quezon Harbor Pilots Association,” the Department of Transportation said. — Jenina P. Ibañez and Arjay L. Balinbin