Is the grass greener on green lanes?

The Board of Investments established 'green lanes' for investors whose enterprises align with the government's priorities. But how streamlined are these 'lanes' absent of implementing rules and regulations?

9 October 2023

By Margarita Maranan

IT is past 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and traffic is terrible along McKinley Road. If you are a car enthusiast, this might not be so bad because there is no shortage of luxury cars to ogle while stuck in traffic in Bonifacio Global City (BGC). Lately though, it's as if I've been seeing electric vehicles (EVs) everywhere, and while we can spend a whole day debating whether these cars are really worth buying, I was more curious to learn when car manufacturers started amping up distribution of electric and hybrid cars in the Philippines.

EVs are among the priority sectors of the Board of Investments (BoI), in line with the government's agenda to promote the Philippines as a top investment destination. The BoI plays a key role in ensuring that the Philippines' regulatory environment is conducive to business growth and development. As such, it focuses on projects or activities with significant capital injections to the country, consequential economic impact, positive impact on the environment, complex technical processes and engineering designs, or that which will bring about improvements in the Philippines' infrastructure capabilities.

Last July 13, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issued Executive Order (EO) 18, Constituting Green Lanes for Strategic Investments, in Pasay City. EO 18 identifies the following as strategic investments: highly desirable projects, which are recommended by the Fiscal Incentives Review Board; foreign direct investments, resulting from government plans of promoting foreign investment; and projects or activities under the Strategic Investment Priority Plan.

Chief among the provisions of EO 18 is the establishment of the One-Stop-Action-Center for Strategic Investments, or OSAC-SI, within the BoI.

It has the primary responsibility of addressing investor concerns, starting with the designation of an investment as strategic under EO 18 up to post-investment assistance. The OSAC-SI will lead the initiative of streamlining the registration and approval processes undertaken by investors by creating or assigning so-called green lanes within national government agencies and local government units where officers will expedite the issuance of licenses, permits, certifications, or authorizations with the endorsement of the OSAC-SI. As of this writing, however, no implementing rules and regulations have been issued, which means much is still unclear about exactly how projects or activities will qualify for green lanes and what challenges will face green lane practitioners.

In the meantime, the $1.2-billion floating solar project of local SunAsia Energy Inc. and Singapore-based BlueLeaf Energy is considered the first beneficiary of EO 18. It reportedly availed of green lane services to expedite the permitting and licensing processes. The latest project is the $50-billion telecommunications tower infrastructure project of Asean-based EdgePoint Towers, Inc., which is expected to generate over 9,000 jobs and provide high-speed internet to many unserved or underserved areas in the country.

While investors are not prevented from inquiring with the BoI's investment specialists to understand how they can benefit from what appears to be a fast pass for business registration, only time will tell if EO 18 will indeed spare investors from the usual bottlenecks in the registration process, which looks much like rush hour traffic in BGC minus the sleek-looking cars.

As published in The Manila Times. The writer is an Assistant Manager with Deloitte Philippines' Tax & Corporate Services group.

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