So I’ve been running a business in the Philippines for a few years now and have run into plenty of really stupid practices and procedures but if you want to see stupidity taken to new levels try dealing with the bureaucracy.
My factory is in a PEZA zone so every thing coming in and going out has to go through Customs. Fairly simple really, bring in permits and bring out permits, and they used to take an hour or two to get. Now the permits are generally generated at a PEZA Trade Facilitation Department (TFD), not Customs, then you take the permit with you when you bring materials in to the zone. The old procedure was fill out the form on your computer, print four copies, head down to the zone offices and file the permit. An hour later they would call your name and give you the permit.
Then one day last year a new sign appeared stating that after a certain date the manual permits would not be permitted and all permits had to go through their online system. Cool… instant approval they said or five minute approval. Sign me up!
Good luck with that. Took about a month of badgering the TFD to find out what was needed to apply for the service. Filed the application, five weeks later no movement on the process and staff is being told that no more manual permits can be filed. So work comes to a standstill as raw materials run out, no wire, no tubing, no supplies, nada, zilch, not a freaking thing can get in. Finally a letter to the marketing department generates a forward to the attorney running the TFD and low and behold, a user name and password appear in the email. One that doesn’t work…
Fast forward a week later and dozens of emails to the cretins running the show and we have a password and user name that works. But you can’t file a permit because “your account balance is too low to process permits”. Look up the cost of the permits, zero. Another few days sorting out that mess and we have a functioning system to file permits at last.
One, two, three permits get filed. Not a great website by any means. No running total on the imputed amounts so you learn to run a tape on invoices to catch math errors or crappy handwriting on the invoice. Can’t modify a permit if you make a mistake either. But it works and raw materials are flowing in once again.
Then boom.. three permits rejected one after another. Reason? Well they don’t tell you that, just that the permit was rejected. So you try something different, change the file name on the invoice scan or photo you file online. Double check all the check boxes, double check the amounts. Nope, nothing getting through. Staff is now twiddling their thumbs with no work to do as they have no raw materials to work with once again.
So staff goes down to the TFD, tries to file a manual permit which is rejected. Emails fly back and forth between cretins until you find out why the permits were being rejected. No building permit. Let me say that again, no building permit on file.
WTF!!!! We are manufacturing products, not building a new building or remodeling an existing building. Go back through all the rejected permits… all say for manufacturing or assembly, none are checked for consumption and guess what, there is no check box for building materials other than one for production equipment which could be construed as perhaps working on the assembly line or shelving or something.
Staff goes back down armed with a reason and are told that manufacturing or building a product requires a building permit on file and staff is directed to the permit office to apply for a building permit.
Staff arrives at said permit office, finds an intelligent Filipino engineer in charge who laughs and says, no, a building permit is not required. Staff goes back to TFD and is told yes, a building permit is required if we want to bring in raw materials because we are after all building products. Nice intelligent Filipino engineer is decent enough to travel over and explain to the TFD that no, a building permit is not required and will not be issued for manufacturing a product. Permits magically begin being approved once again and we get to restart production.
And the process when things are working well goes like this. Go purchase the raw materials in Manila, pay and get the BIR official receipt. Drive back to the PEZA zone to file the permit as you need a scan of the BIR OR to file with the permit online. Wait till it is approved, ten minutes unless some idiot makes a decision on his or her own. Print out four copies, drive back to the supplier in Manila and load the materials to go through Customs at the edge of the PEZA zone. Pay a few hundred pesos to park besides the Customs inspection building at a private parking lot set up for incoming and outgoing shipments, pay about half of that for the fee, if you are unlucky “that” guy is working and asks staff for an additional “fee” of 100 pesos and no he isn’t giving out receipts if you now what I mean. Back up to the Customs inspection dock and they eyeball your cargo and away you go with your load after everything is stamped and filed.
And no, you can’t use an electronic copy of the BIR OR, it has to be a paid BIR original receipt, the receipt for the order. Strangely enough a pro forma invoice willl work when something is coming in from outside the country but they will not accept purchase orders or unpaid receipts on local purchased materials.
Now is it just me or is the fact that if the materials are bought locally and already have the VAT and duty paid not germane to thinking that perhaps, just maybe, we don’t need to worry about stuff coming into the zone and should concentrate stuff leaving the zone in case the VAT and duty hasn’t been paid?
And to make things really interesting you can input all the data, triple check everything before submitting a permit, only to find out that it took a number like 280 pesos and turned it into 28,013 pesos on the final form. Or it changes the self generated reference number for you. I’ve seen this happen right before my eyes as a staff member is submitting a permit on the remote laptop. So even when it “works” the system is so bug ridden as to be a total crap shoot to use.
So nothing can be taken for granted in the Philippines when you are running a business there. Roadblocks will appear and the second you decide it is an attempt to obtain bribes you learn that sheer mind numbing stupidity just might be behind the problemPublished in