On The Field: A Typical Business Registration Day During Quarantine Period

By Cheska Roque

It was Wednesday, and our itinerary was a Revenue District Office (RDO) of BIR, the nearby City Hall, then SEC Main office (if we had time to spare).

I picked up M, our staff,  from the office.

During the drive from the office to our first stop, we chatted a bit about how her sister was coping in the US, the antics of her little boy back at the province, and how her side business was doing. I was already used to narrowly avoiding the concrete barriers at EDSA as we had been scheduling trips like these twice a week for the past months since MECQ was implemented. With the way things were, we couldn’t afford a dedicated transportation service for M, and I didn’t mind driving her around as it means savings, safety, and my personal peace of mind. Also, my curiosity on how the government offices were operating was satisfied this way – like chismis being reported live.

Previously about the same RDO, M was ranting:

“They told me that the Certificate of Registration (COR) will be available after A MONTH, then the books a week after! Other RDOs release it within the day because they don’t want people to come back… but this RDO is really something! I even saw a woman who was making a scene, saying that she will be complaining about this RDO! Nakakaloka! But at least I got the form for payment already.”

So here we were back again, a week after. I asked what she was expecting today. She exclaimed, “Well, I checked the form when we got back last time, and they didn’t write the TIN number even though there was a verification stamp! We couldn’t pay for it. So I have to go and clarify it now. As usual, their landlines cannot be reached so the only way to know is to go there.”

My eyes widened in disbelief. It was the first time we encountered a payment form without an issued TIN number. You CAN’T pay without a TIN number.

And the landlines? HA. Unreachable landlines of government offices is a plague in itself, SEC is notorious for it these days. What should have taken a simple phone call instead obliges us to have an unnecessary exposure and go to the SEC Main office at Pasay. Not even their satellite offices are open. Their current system is you have to drop off the ACTUAL documents at the main office, and WAIT for their email, no calls. Jeezus. I can only hope this is temporary.

M lining up

Back to M. No worries! I brought my laptop and had a few bank errands to do while she’s there. I’ve become adept at scheduling my things to do while on our trips. In fact, I get more things done actually compared to working from home in my condo with my husband and two kids (see my previous blog post here).

I get live updates thru fb messenger too when she’s inside.

M: Parang nagulat pa si ate na walang TIN. (I can feel her eyes roll all the way back to the office).

Me: hahahahahahaha (Me deep inside though was like omg watdahel).

We discussed payment options as they usually refer to manually depositing to Land Bank and make it seem like it’s the only option (other RDOs have an in-house cashier but this one doesn’t). We knew though that you can pay thru GCash and will only need to print it and give it to them as proof of payment. The latter it is. Good thing there was a nearby business center. I pondered on buying a portable printer for future convenience.

An hour later, I picked up M and we went off to buy lunch. As we are paranoid mothers, we usually avoid malls and opt to drive thru and eat inside the car. The break consists of an animated narrative of what happened, an additional issue resulting in a penalty, and coordination with the client. I laughed as she showed me a makeshift placard that she held up when she followed up her case – as apparently their double barrier was not only effective in Covid safety but miscommunication as well. For the nth time that day, I shook my head in dismay.

Her son called her via video call, crying. I let M mother her son virtually for a bit as I finished my lunch. I counted my blessings as I knew I would go home later that day and be with my family. M hasn’t gone home for a long time due to community quarantine so her situation is very much like an OFW. We can only wait for the lifting of restrictions and when it comes, definitely a well-deserved vacation is due.

We got word that the client green lights the payment. GCash and print! In hindsight, this was the only way since ALL the banks surrounding the office were closed due to some rotation schedule (I pitied those who believed the officers and attempted to pay at Land Bank). I brought M back to BIR and I settled in for another possible long wait. Surprise, she came out after half an hour.

“I went straight to the window since she told me to go back there directly. Then I was asked if I could wait. I said I’ll come back later.”

“Wait for what? I thought they said the COR will be released after a month”

Baka nahiya sa akin o nadaan ko sa kulit. Hahaha! I don’t know, it really depends on who you ask.

Very true. On a side note, we generally make it a point to verify information two or more times with different people or sources via calls or emails before setting out. Even then, when you get to the actual office, sometimes there will be a different requirement, or that they’re suddenly closed for disinfection and you’ve wasted your time. Very typical of these offices to have different “facts”, and there is a true lack of information dissemination.  Not all, but most.

We headed out to the city hall to process the permits. I dropped off M and tried to look for parking, to no avail. I pursed my lips upon seeing senior citizens going in and out of a public building and street children playing on the streets with nary a mask on. It’s as if there is no pandemic. I gave up and headed towards the nearest gas station for a much needed toilet break. Time to check on some work and emails.

Two hours later, I picked up M who had an indescribable expression on her face.

“I could’ve finished it today except… apparently the lessor is not registered and they cannot use that address.”

Oh my goodness. This was major. At initial meetings, we let clients know that lessors must be legitimate with their own registered business and receipt, or if the locations have restrictions for businesses as most residential areas or condominiums do. A snag like this means amending the SEC and BIR documents, and starting the city hall registration from scratch.

There was nothing we could do but let the client know and discuss how to move forward. We went back to BIR, and just before 5pm, M was finally out with the COR. I raised an eyebrow because it still took some time. “They misplaced it and had to look for it all over the office,” M said while rolling her eyes.

It’s safe to say that our eyeballs are well-exercised twice a week.

“Well, at least we got it.” A Pyrrhic victory, in my opinion.  “I guess we won’t be going to SEC anymore since they close at 4pm”

Right. Time to start the 2-hour journey back.

I cannot wait for any sort of working online system for all of this.

I would gladly, GLADLY have less clients if it means something more efficient than having to go physically to any government office, line up, and get let down over and over again because what they need CANNOT be found over the internet or was not told over the phone.

I get that this creates jobs but this business of inefficiency has to stop. This is why people are discouraged to start building their dreams and starting their businesses. Isn’t it logical that more registered businesses creates more jobs, and may even offset the job loss in government if everything is automated? Not to mention more income for the government.

One can only hope that the government mandated online registration pushes through, with proper security features in place please. The last thing we need is to be hacked. Again. In the meantime, we plod on.

TLDR version (valuable tips from this post):

  1. Landlines are generally unreliable in most government offices these days. Hoping this is temporary. 
  2. Double check requirements and information. They are almost always different/ lacking than what you find online or what they tell you if you DO get through the landline.
  3. Yes you can pay thru GCASH for BIR fees (don’t line up at Land Bank).
  4. Check the location you use for your business address. Lessor must be legitimately registered, and there must be no restrictions from building admin or homeowners.
  5. Have lots and lots and lots of patience and be careful that it doesn’t consume your soul.
  6. A proper WORKING online system is the solution.

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