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Call for speedy passage of amendments to Foreign Investments Act, removal of anti-competitive restrictions on foreign investments needed

PASIG CITY, Philippines – The prized C5 Road corridor that transcends Pasig and Quezon City starts to bustle with redevelopment and other urban activities in this morning image, 11 March 2018 file. Senator Win Gatchalian is championing several economic reform bills that aim to foster an inclusive, efficient, and competitive business environment in the Philippines, and ensure the country will capture a lion’s share of foreign investments. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian stressed the need to amend the country’s current economic laws to foster a more competitive business environment in the Philippines as he called on the Senate to accelerate the passage of much-needed legislative reforms designed to make the country more adaptable to current and future business demands and trends.

Gatchalian, chair of Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, made the statement in response to the executive branch’s renewed call for the next Congress to lift foreign ownership limits under the 1987 Constitution amid the slowdown of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow in 2018.

“Nanatiling isang malaking hadlang sa pag-unlad ng ating bansa ang restrictive na batas at polisiya natin sa foreign investments sa bansa. Talagang napapanahon na muling pag-usapan ang pag-amiyenda sa ating mga batas upang mas ma-encourage ang mga dayuhang mamumuhunan na magbukas ng mga negosyo dito sa Pilipinas,” the lawmaker said.

“We should take advantage of the good economic performance of the country by further harnessing the country’s potential for foreign investment. This starts by reviewing and updating our laws to encourage the influx of foreign capital through the development of a more investment-friendly climate,” he added.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), FDI attracted by the Philippines slowed by 4.4 percent to $9.8 billion in 2018 from $10.3 billion in 2017 amid the sharp drop on net investments in equity capital.

In 2017, the Philippines’ FDI of $10.3 billion paled in comparison with most of its peers in Southeast Asia, trailing behind the likes of Singapore ($63.57 billion), Indonesia ($22.17 billion) and Vietnam ($14.10 billion).

Gatchalian pointed out the Philippines “continues to lag behind its ASEAN neighbors in terms of capturing foreign investment due to the country’s relatively restrictive and less competitive economic policies.”

The lawmaker has championed several economic reform bills that aim to foster an inclusive, efficient, and competitive business environment in the Philippines, and ensure the country will capture a lion’s share of foreign investments.

Among these is Senate Bill No. 2102 or An Act Amending Republic Act No. 7042, otherwise known as the Foreign Investments Act (FIA) of 1991, which provides clarity to foreigners who are interested in investing in small and medium enterprises or practicing their profession in the Philippines.

With SB 2102, Gatchalian proposes to update FIA’s declaration of policy to encapsulate inclusive economic growth, advancements in technology, and the dynamic relationships among global and regional economies.

The bill also mandates the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), in cooperation and consultation with the Board of Investments, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and other pertinent government agencies to conduct an annual review of the country’s Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) to ensure that the list is aligned with this policy.

Moreover, SB 2102 seeks to amend Section 4 of the FIA to expressly exclude “the practice of professions” from the coverage of the FIA, thus emphasizing that the law only governs equity investments in the Philippines by non-Filipinos.

He renewed his call for the removal of anti-competitive restrictions on foreign investments, pointing to key amendatory measures he has filed to erase these restrictions from key economic laws including the Public Services Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

“With global growth expected to moderate in 2019, it is time for us to pass legislative reforms that are responsive to the needs of the domestic economy and, at the same time, accommodate the dynamics of the regional and global environment,” Gatchalian said.