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Digong opens 3 sectors to foreign investors

/ 01:06 AM November 25, 2016

DAVAO CITY—President Duterte said the Philippines was on track “for an unparalleled trajectory of growth” as he declared the opening up of the economy, particularly the telecommunications, “the airwaves” and energy sectors, to new players and foreign investors.

The Philippine economy grew 7.1 percent, the fastest in the region, in the first three months in office of Mr. Duterte.

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“The only way to make this country move faster to benefit the poor is really to open up the communications, the airwaves and the entire energy sector. My decision now is to open the Philippine economy to other players,” the President said upon arrival from New Zealand, where he spent a night after attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Lima, Peru.

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The President said his administration was finalizing plans to “open up the information and communications technology industry to new players in order to promote competitiveness and improve quality of service.”

His comments suggest he intends to follow through on threats to stamp out protectionism, having warned the telco duopoly of PLDT and Globe Telecom to shape up, or face new competition.

Philippine mobile internet and voice services are ranked among Asia’s slowest and most intermittent.

Investors in the Philippines have complained often of regulations that can restrict foreign investment in various areas, among them telecoms and utilities.

The President said his administration was “now also looking into regulatory requirements and institutional arrangements to hasten the entry of new players in the power industry and energy sector.”

He said one could count on his fingers the players in the power industry, although he could not say that they were the elite.

“The Philippines acknowledges the significant role of more vibrant telecommunications and power industries to be able to participate in the global market with a competitive edge,” he added.

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Opening up the telecommunications and other sectors to foreign investors will require amending the 1987 Constitution that limits to 40-percent foreign ownership of public utilities.

The Duterte administration wants to amend the Constitution through a constituent assembly, composed of senators and representatives.

The President also spoke of conducting an audit of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) following the refusal of its officers to resign amid allegations of corruption.

He threatened to order the filing of cases against ERC officials found to be involved in corruption, lashing out at them for making the government “their milking cow.”

Mr. Duterte said he would order a stop to hiring consultants in state corporations as the practice cost the government millions of pesos in salaries.

The President’s statements against ERC officials came more than two weeks after ERC Director Francisco Jose Villa Jr. committed suicide because he could not handle the pressure from the ERC chair who allegedly wanted him to rig the bidding and favor his boss’ preferred companies.

“My greatest fear in the bids and awards committee is the AVP by Luis Morelos which the chair and CEO, Jose Vicente B. Salazar, chose through a rigged selection system. That will be a criminal act,” Villa said in a series of suicide notes he wrote three months ago when he started feeling the pressure from Salazar.

Broadcast journalist Charie Villa said her brother was “pressured to approve contracts for procurements and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure as bids and awards committee chair.”

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TAGS: competition, Duterte economic policy, energy regulatory commission, ERC, ERC corruption, foreign investments, foreign investors, Philippine economy, Philippine ICT industry, Philippine power industry, Philippine telecoms industry, Rodrigo Duterte
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