Gov’t regulators urged to focus on benefits of new technologies

Industry executives have urged government regulators to focus on the benefits of the new technologies to the people instead of focusing on rules and processes.

In a recent a symposium on “Rethinking Regulations in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Grab Philippines regional policy and research manager Marian Panganiban urged the government to have a “mindset that is open to innovation.”

Panganiban stressed the need to understand how businesses operate nowadays to effectively impose regulations. “The rules right now, the existing regulations, may no longer be applicable,” she added.

Last year, Grab, along with another ride-hailing service Uber, made headlines as it faced regulatory issues with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board — a move that affected thousands of commuters in the country.

Panganiban asserted that there is a need for ‘minimal discretion’ in terms of regulating the industries. “Existing rules may not always be applicable to all sectors and that “the more rules, the higher the likelihood that those rules will clash.”

She also called on the government to help facilitate constant coordination among the different sectors and agencies.

Union Bank of the Philippines chairman Justo Ortiz also stressed the importance of regulations being adaptive to the current situation, as well as to the needs of people.

“I think it is important to see beyond the regulators’ ego and those affected by the regulations and focus on the customer,” Ortiz said.

He added that knowing what people want will make it easier for regulators to perform their functions.

“The question that needs to be asked is what do the people want? How are they going to be benefited by it? And then, my job now is ‘Okay they want that, how do I protect them? How do I ensure a level-playing field?’ Not how should I protect the existing franchisees. For whose benefits are you regulating?” Ortiz explained.

While the intended outcomes maybe the same for both the government and these industries, their proposed processes may differ, entailing the need for what Ortiz labels as soft regulations or the creation of frameworks, issuance of guidelines, and codes of conduct instead of imposing strict regulations.

“We can define the outcomes, but how do you get to those outcomes? Do not prescribe these because these are constantly evolving, constantly moving,” Ortiz added.

Ortiz also recommended the use of technological innovations in getting people’s feedback, which can then be used by both the government regulators and the private sector in shaping their regulatory frameworks and products and services.

mClinica’s head of public sector and policy Phoebe Jane Elizaga lamented the seemingly ‘invisible wall’ that separates the regulators, private sector, and stakeholders, hindering a harmonious relationship among each other.

She highlighted the importance of having an open conversation with stakeholders to learn from each other’s perspectives, which ensures that better solutions will be in place. — (Edu Lopez)

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