by Louella Desiderio – The Philippine Star, 18 Dec 2021
MANILA, Philippines — Senate approval of amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA) to allow 100-percent foreign ownership of a wide range of local business enterprises was described as “sort of a Christmas gift” by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).
Earlier this week, the Senate approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 2094, which amends the PSA to allow full foreign ownership of ventures in telecommunications, air carriers, domestic shipping, railways and subways, canals and irrigations.
In an interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News on Thursday, PCCI president emeritus George Barcelon said the new measure would attract foreign investments and develop needed infrastructure in the country.
Still, Barcelon said the PCCI expects more changes to be made in the proposed measure to take into account national security concerns.
“We might not be ready for issues like hacking or foreign countries interfering with our critical information,” he said.
Some senators had raised this concern if full foreign ownership in the telecommunications sector is allowed.
“There is some sensitivity to this because of secrecy issues and we per se, our technological know-how may not be at the level where it will allow us, where it will confidently allow 100 percent foreign ownership and this is where I think some of the legislators are coming from,” said Barcelon.
“I would think down the line, they might have to tweak it again,” he said, citing the need to strike a balance in the telecommunications sector.
The Senate bill will still have to be consolidated with the version approved by the House of Representatives before a final proposed measure is brought before the President for signing.
Under SB 2094, the 40-percent limit on foreign ownership will remain for those considered as public utilities such as distribution or transmission of electricity, petroleum and petroleum products pipeline transmission or distribution systems, water pipeline distribution systems and wastewater pipeline systems, airports, seaports, public utility vehicles, expressways and tollways.
Overall, Barcelon said the PCCI believes this measure – along with other reforms such as the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, proposed amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and amendments to Foreign Investments Act – would help open the country to more investments which are needed, given the impact of the pandemic on the economy.
“These are all a package, a package wherein present and future administrations can leverage and help attract both foreign and local investors,” he said.
“It is very important after our tumultuous two years with the COVID pandemic. We need more investments to create more jobs and hopefully long-term wise to transform and achieve middle income status within the decade,” he added.