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Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Senen Sarmiento signed last Thursday (June 9, 2016) the IRR on controlled chemicals, as recommended by Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ricardo Marquez.  The IRR is set to be published in an official gazette on July 25, 2016 and will be effective 15 days after.
 
The IRR is pursuant to Section 4-C to 4-F of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1866 as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 9516, which provides the list of chemicals to be controlled, the streamlined procedures for the regulation including storage, handling, and transport of controlled chemicals; and the accreditation guidelines for logistics providers, including those that are company-owned trucks and service vehicles.
 
The IRR is a product of the consolidated inputs and insights of the members of the various meetings and consultations of a main technical working group (TWG) co-chaired by Trade Undersecretary and Board of Investments (BOI) Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo and DILG Undersecretary Edwin Enrile; and the three sub-technical working groups on the categorization of chemicals, streamlining of processes, and accreditation of logistics providers and company-owned trucks and service vehicles on controlled chemicals.
 
“The promulgation of the IRR fully regard that safety of our countrymen is paramount as the regulation supports regulation of storage, transport, and handling of chemicals which can be used to create bombs.  At the same time, the IRR also supports industry development particularly in the area of ease of doing business in the country as the regulation streamlines and rationalizes the processes, benefiting not just the chemicals industry, but backward and forward linked industries as well including manufacturing, agriculture, health, and research and development,” Secretary Cristobal said.
 
Among the salient features of the IRR are as follows: Reduction of the list of PNP controlled chemicals from 101 to 32 (15 High Risk and 17 Low Risk); Streamlined procedures in filing applications for permits and licenses, reducing the days of approval from 20 to 10 for new applications; Non-imposition of police escort fees and accreditation of logistics providers; the PNP Chief may consult with the stakeholders and seek the approval of the DILG Secretary in revising the IRR and its annexes; Recognition of good track record of PNP clients through the Issuance of a certificate of good standing to a licensed entity which has complied with the requirements of the IRR and has no derogatory report; Eventual automation of the processes through the development and application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT); Commissioning of an R&D Team by the DILG Secretary to evaluate and determine the explosive potential of a chemical; Establishment of Regional Civil Security Units (RCSUs) which will be the regional focal point of the Civil Security Group (CSG) of the PNP; Upholding of the validity of licenses pending action from the PNP; Authorization of dealers to sell to unlicensed entities at a maximum quantity subject to certain conditions; Flexibility in requiring a commercial/proforma invoice in lieu of Bill of Lading  or Airway Bill for application of Permit to Unload (PTU); and Provision for PNP to follow clearly-defined procedures in the inspection of storage facilities.
 
 “Chemicals are basic inputs in the operations of the manufacturing sector and therefore it is important to the system up and running smoothly as this would easily translate into improvement of the other sectors within the manufacturing industry,” said Secretary Cristobal.
 
Secretary Cristobal said that since 2012, the BOI, the industry development and investments promotion arm of the DTI, started reviving industry development in the country with the goal of strengthening the collaboration, closer discussion, and more active cooperation with various industries and sectors.   In the same year, the call for the crafting of industry roadmaps was initiated.  “The chemicals industry was among the first to develop and share their roadmap with the agency, and subsequently a Sectoral Working Group (SWG) on chemicals was formed with discussions centering on various concerns affecting the growth and competitiveness of the industry namely ease of doing business, environmental issues, human resource development issues, trade and investment issues, and others,” he said.
 
In the SWG discussions, it was highlighted that chemicals is one of the most highly-regulated industries in the country, noting there are currently seven government agencies regulating the industry namely the Food and Drugs Authority, Philippine Drugs and Enforcement Agency, Dangerous Drugs Board, PNP, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Customs, and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority.
 
“Of course, we all know the consequences. There have been duplications in the requirements and the processes in getting permits and licenses which were really burdensome, cumbersome, and very costly, affecting the competitiveness of the industry. Aside from the direct impact on the chemicals industry, these complicated processes also snowballed given the chemical industry’s inter-linkages with the other industries and subsectors within the manufacturing sector especially those using chemicals as an input or intermediate raw material. As a result, there have been reports of companies shutting down operations due to the difficulties they were facing in terms of complying with the different regulations,” he said.
 
The SWG discussions were then brought at the Economic Cluster meeting in July 2015.  Upon instruction of President Aquino to the Cabinet Secretary and the Secretaries of DTI and DILG, the TWG on PNP-controlled chemicals was then created to resolve various issues. BOI served as secretariat for all the TWGs and sub-TWGs.
 
The sub-TWG on the categorization of controlled chemicals is co-chaired by Dr. Fabian Dayrit of the Ateneo Department of Chemistry, ICP, and NAST, and Col. Victor Drapete of the PNP Crime Laboratory. The members are mostly chemists and chemical engineers namely: Dr. Annabelle Briones and Hermelina Bion, both of DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute; Dr. Lilibeth Coo of the University of the Philippines Institute of Chemistry; Engineer Gretchen Fontejon-Enarle of the Samahan sa Pilipinas ng mga Industriyang Kimika; and Nilo Rebay of the Semiconductors & Electronics Industries in the Philippines. They categorized the chemicals into high-risk and low-risk based on characterization of the explosive potential of each chemical using scientific qualifiers.
 
The sub-TWG on streamlining of procedures meanwhile was led by Export Development Council deputy executive director Emma Mijares and Police Chief Superintendent Elmo Sarona and Police Senior Superintendent Cesar Binag of PNP Firearms and Explosives Office. The-TWG on the accreditation of logistics providers or company-owned trucks and service vehicles on the other hand was led by PEZA general manager Veronica Magsino and Police Senior Superintendent Fausto Manzanilla of the PNP Explosives Management Division.
 
The PNP, last January 2013, expanded to 41 substances, its master list of regulated chemicals including common household chemicals and those used by various business industries and sectors. The expansion of the list required companies to secure a permit with the PNP to import, handle, or transport chemicals including those that are commonly-used in manufacturing. The move, according to PNP, was in keeping with the directive of PD 1866 as amended by RA No. 9516.
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