Traders seek lifting of restrictions
The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) has urged the government anew to further ease the economic restrictions in the Constitution on foreign investors to facilitate the entry of much-needed investments into the country.
The group has sought in particular the passage of two bills that would “make the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) less negative,” namely the proposed Foreign Investment Act Amendments (House Bill No. 2818 and Senate Bill No. 1424) and the FINL Liberalization Act (HB 5544 and SB 2517).
In a statement on Monday, the JFC said it had sent a letter to Senate President Franklin Drilon to recommend the passage of both bills, considering the limited time left in the 16th Congress. A letter was also sent to Rep. Mark Villar, who heads the House committee on trade and industry, requesting that it begin a hearing on the bills.
The statement was issued amid preparations for the economic leaders’ summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) in November. The regional economic forum aims to promote economic growth and trade liberalization in the region.
“The FINL Liberalization Act is included in President Aquino’s priority legislative measures as of July 2015. It is intended to remove restrictions on adjustment companies, lending companies, financing companies and investment houses in the FINL under a single reform measure,” the JFC said.
“The proposed law is consistent with banking and financial sector reforms undertaken in the 15th and 16th Congresses to relax or remove restrictions on foreign equity. It would facilitate entry of new investments through foreign equity and trade liberalization,” it said.
“The proposed Foreign Investment Act Amendments, on the other hand, seeks to remove the practice of professions in the FINL and lower the minimum paid-in capital for foreign equity and reduces the foreign investment employment requirement,” it added.
There are also amendments to specific laws which restrict foreign equity introduced in the current Congress.
In May this year, Malacañang issued Executive Order No. 184, promulgating the 10th regular FINL, which had practically kept intact the list of activities and sectors restricted to foreign equity and participation as provided for in the ninth regular FINL. A major change can be seen in the list of professions reserved for Filipinos, which retained pharmacy, radiologic and X-ray technology, criminology, forestry and law.
The JFC is a coalition of the American, Australian-New Zealand, Canadian, European, Japanese and Korean chambers in the country as well as the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc.
The group comprises over 3,000 member companies engaged in over $230 billion worth of trade and some $30 billion worth of investments in the Philippines.
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