By Chino S. Leyco
President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s first foreign investment negative list up for the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approval, a government official said.
Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon said yesterday that the final draft of 11th regular Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) is now being circulated among concerned agencies for finalization.
Edillon said the goal is have it signed by President Duterte next month.
“We already have a draft, which is being circulated among the agencies for one final round,” Edillon said in an interview. “It will go to the NEDA Board for approval, and hopefully by September for the President’s signature.”
While the 11th FINL will not fully open the local industries to non-Filipino investors, Edillon noted that the administration’s negative list is now “moving towards” a complete liberalized Philippines.
“It’s not just the DOF [Department of Finance], it’s the entire economic team that wants the liberalization, but like I said, sometimes we’re constraint by the constitution and legislation, so it’s a working process to make it open,” Edillon said.
She also said that delays in the release of the FINL were owing to several recommendations raised by several government agencies.
“It’s delayed because other government agencies wanted to include certain sectors but when we looked at the legal basis or amendment on the IRR [implementing rules and regulations], it requires amendments of the law,” the NEDA official said.
“FINL will be among the agenda of the next NEDA Board,” she pointed out.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III earlier said the Duterte administration wanted to issue a “very liberal” FINL to entice more foreign players into the country.
Dominguez, meanwhile, assured that President Duterte will not touch on those investment areas requiring either legislative action or changes to the Constitution.
“The only limitation we have there is, you know, what is legislated and what is in the constitution, that is the only limit because we’re only reviewing those things that can be done administratively,” Dominguez said.
Based on a technical working group (TWG) report, areas where foreigners could eventually fully operate include financing and investment companies, as well as education. They may also practice some licensed professions in the Philippines.
Other areas identified in the TWG report are mass media, supplies to state-owned corporations and agencies as well as bath houses and massage clinics.
According to the report, the government can cite Republic Act No. 10881 as its basis to allow foreign nationals acquire full ownership of financing and investment companies in the Philippines.
The government is also looking at allowing foreign pharmacists and forestry to practice their professions in the country, as long as it is under a reciprocity system.
Along with this, the government may also ease the restrictions on education by limiting the 40 percent foreign equity rule only to basic education. The TWG also recommended that high-level skills development be opened to foreign players.
On mass media, the government is considering the easing of the foreign equity limitations imposed on marketing and advertising through the Internet.
Contracts for the supply of materials, goods and commodities to government-owned or controlled corporation, company, agency or municipal corporation are also considered for removal from the list, but also on a reciprocity basis.
Lastly, the TWG has recommended to the Department of Health to classify sauna and steam bathhouses, massage clinics and other like activities under “wellness centers” to allow full foreign ownership.
The Philippines’ so-called “foreign investment negative list” lays out investment areas closed to foreign investment and areas where foreign ownership is limited. The list is periodically by the National Economic and Development Authority.
In 2015, business groups were dismayed after former President Benigno S. Aquino III kept the list of industries reserved for Filipinos under the 10th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List.