By Chino S. Leyco
Business groups have joined the economic managers’ call for the Congress to swiftly approve three legislative measures aiming to either lift or ease restrictions on the entry of foreign investments into the country, the Department of Finance (DOF) said yesterday.
In a statement, the finance department said the swift approval of the Duterte administration’s proposed three investment-related legislations will help create more jobs and bring in new technologies that will further improve the global competitiveness of the Philippine economy.
The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC), which counts the biggest organizations of foreign businesses in its ranks, supported the administration’s measures, noting these bills provide for amendments to the Foreign Investment Act, the Retail Liberalization Act of 2000 and the Public Service Act.
Lowering the employment threshold for foreigners investing at least $100,000 in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Philippines is among the key amendments being sought under the Foreign Investments Act.
Amendments to the Retail Liberalization law aim to lower the minimum paid-up capital required for foreign investments in retail trade, while revisions to the Public Service Act seek to redefine what public utilities and thereby lift ownership restrictions on certain sectors such as telecommunications.
Other foreign groups that threw support behind the investment liberalization are the American Chamber of Commerce, Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Korean Chamber of Commerce and Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters.
Last month by the DOF and Budget and Management (DBM) along with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) called on the Congress to, among others, approve the investment-friendly bills, which they described as “needed and urgent” to “help attract foreign investments in manufacturing.”
This sector, the economic managers said, remains an “area of concern,” given its lackluster performance during that year.
The JFC said it is in “strong agreement” with this call, considering that such reforms “will attract large amounts of new foreign investment, provide more jobs and transfer important technology for the betterment of the Philippine economy.”
“We ask the Department of Finance to recommend to President Duterte to certify the bills as urgent,” the JFC said in a January 25 letter to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III.
In its letter to the President’s economic team, the JFC also appealed for the swift passage of the Open Access to Data Transmission Act and the amendments to the Charter of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which the group said are necessary to “achieve substantial reforms in the ICT (information and communications technology) sector (that are) crucial to Philippine development.”
It also urged Dominguez to recommend to President Duterte to certify as urgent these two bills that aim to narrow the digital divide in the country.
The JFC also assured Dominguez of its “commitment to increase investment in the country and to create more jobs for Filipinos.”
The JFC said the three investment-friendly measures and the two ICT bills require the President’s certification because of “the limited legislative time for the 17th Congress.”
The Congress took a break on Feb. 9 for the midterm elections in May and will convene for the last time on May 20 to June 7 before its sine die adjournment.
“We believe that the enactment of these bills is in line with the third point of the President’s Socioeconomic Agenda to increase the competitiveness of the national economy and to reduce barriers to foreign investment,” the JFC said.
It added that these reform bills “are also pursuant to Memorandum Order 16 signed on November 21, 2017, where(in) the President instructed the key agencies to exert utmost efforts to lift or ease restrictions on certain investment areas or activities with limited foreign participation.”