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Duterte gov’t eyes up to 70% foreign ownership of telcos – NEDA chief

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 04:27 PM July 12, 2017

Telecommunications clients in the Philippines are demanding faster and faster Internet speed as more Filipinos turn to mobile smartphones to communicate and get information. The Duterte administration is now mulling relaxing restrictions on foreign investments in the telco sector to enable the industry to raise more capital for the upgrade of services. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

MANILA — The Duterte administration is eyeing removal of public utilities, including telecommunications, from the biennial “negative” list of sectors where foreign investors have only limited participation, the country’s chief economist said.

In particular, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told reporters late last Monday that they have been looking at raising to up to 70 percent the maximum share that could be held by foreign firms in local telco companies from 40 percent at present.

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For Pernia, full foreign ownership of telco firms could can be “possible.”

“The focus is on telcos because that’s where we are really inefficient,” explained Pernia, also the head of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority.

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In general, Pernia said President Duterte preferred up to 70-percent foreign ownership of utilities.

Also, the President wanted foreigners’ maximum lease term of private land extended to up to 100 years from 50 years currently, Pernia added.

Pernia said they would amend the antiquated Public Service Act in order to redefine what would constitute public utilities so that these could be removed from the foreign investment negative list (FINL) that the government has been releasing every two years.

The 10th list was issued in 2015.

The NEDA chief said these moves would form part of the plan to trim the FINL as well as ease constitutional restrictions on foreign investment in a bid to attract more investors from overseas.

Separately, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters Tuesday night that they have been targeting to release the 11th FINL by the middle of August.

Dominguez said economic managers would relax foreign investment restrictions as allowed by the Constitution and under existing laws.  SFM

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Business, Carlos G. Dominguez III, constitutional law, constitutional restrictions on foreign investment, constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership, Department of Finance, economy, Ernesto M. Pernia, Finance, FINL, foreign direct investments, foreign investment negative list, foreign ownership of utilities, National Economic and Development Authority, negative list of sectors with limited foreign investments, Public Service Act, telco, Telecommunications
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