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CEPNS should be SOP

June 01, 2019

A RELATIVELY minor news item from the Department of Energy this week deserves more attention than it would appear to deserve at first glance, not because of its details, but because of what it suggests could be accomplished in the government’s efforts to streamline processes and cut red tape.

The Certificate of Energy Project of National Significance (CEPNS) is a designation given by the Energy Investment Coordinating Council to energy-related projects the council deems worthy of being prioritized. The CEPNS developed from an executive order signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in June 2017, which called for streamlining procedures and regulatory requirements for energy investments in the country.

Projects that have been awarded a CEPNS are considered to be preapproved, and are entitled to a fast-track process from the government agencies concerned. Applications for various permits, licenses and other certifications must be processed within 30 days, and are considered automatically approved after 35 days if they are not acted upon.

The obvious benefit of the program is that it can reduce the amount of time needed for a project to navigate the bureaucratic process from months or even years to a matter of weeks. As the country’s recent experience with constrained power supplies has starkly illustrated, anything that can accelerate improvements in electricity supply and distribution is of great value. The list of projects recently granted CEPNS are individually not very impressive — 26 of them are for maintenance and upgrade of small diesel power plants in provincial areas, and another 18 are for construction and repair of parts of the National Grid Corp.’s distribution grid — but are all vitally necessary to ensure reliable energy supply throughout the country.

President Duterte and the agencies which have successfully put his stated objective to reduce red tape into action through the CEPNS program certainly deserve credit for carrying out the initiative. We suggest, however, that the simple and effective framework of the CEPNS should not be limited to energy projects.

Although a great deal of progress has been made under the Duterte administration, particularly in infrastructure development, even the government must admit that less has been accomplished at this point than was originally hoped. Unforeseen problems such as the months-long budget impasse between Congress and the administration as well as the familiar inertia of the bureaucracy in handling complex projects has left the country in the unfortunate position of having to play catch-up to meet its growth goals. Applying a tool like CEPNS to other areas can greatly assist that effort.

Doing so would not require a significant change in processes or the government’s approach to launching new projects, because the necessary pieces are already in place. For energy-related projects, eligibility for the CEPNS and the preapproval needed to speed up procedures is determined by the Energy Investment Coordinating Council; for other kinds of projects, the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) already serves the same purpose. The 30-day processing time standard, which is similar to the provisions of the not-yet-implemented Ease of Doing Business Act, can be made a standard for all government agencies with a stroke of the President’s pen.

When considered in that light, it becomes difficult to fathom reasons why any worthwhile value-adding project regardless of its type should not be considered a “project of national significance” and given the same preferential treatment as key energy-related projects. With the need to accelerate development after a period of lower than expected growth, the time is ideal to adopt the CEPNS approach in other areas.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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