Easing of foreign restrictions in more sectors pushed

By Louella D. Desiderio, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 09 2015 08:01 AM | Updated as of Jun 09 2015 04:01 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The government will need to relax more sectors in the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) to attract investments and create competition, foreign business groups said.

Henry Schumacher, vice president for external affairs of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines said the government will have to relax foreign restrictions in more sectors to encourage firms to invest and allow consumers to have wider range of products and services to choose from, following the release of Executive Order 184 promulgating the 10th Regular FINL which identifies activities reserved to Filipinos.

The new list released last week, replaces the 9th Regular FINL issued by President Aquino in October 2012.

Under the new FINL, the list of professions reserved only for Filipinos covers pharmacy, radiologic and x-ray technology, criminology, forestry and law.

Professions listed in the previous list are open to foreigners if their country would allow Filipinos to practice such.

Other areas where foreign ownership is prohibited are mass media; retail trade enterprises with paid up capital less than $2.5 million; cooperatives; private security agencies; small-scale mining; marine resources; cockpits; nuclear weapons; as well as firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

Areas in which foreign ownership is limited are private radio communications network; private recruitment for local and overseas employment; locally-funded public works; defense-related structures; advertising; use of natural resources; ownership of private lands; operation of public utilities; educational institutions; rice and corn production; supply of goods to government-owned or controlled corporation; operation of facility requiring public utility franchise; commercial fishing vessels; adjustment companies; ownership of condominium units; as well as lending companies, financing companies and investment houses regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“The list is still restrictive and limits foreign investment to create more competition which would benefit Juan dela Cruz, getting better products and services at a better price,” Schumacher said in a text message.

Among the sectors which should be opened up more to foreigners, he said, are public utilities including telecommunications to provide consumers more choices.

For his part, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) senior adviser John Forbes said the new FINL has no legal differences from the previous list issued.

“AmCham is concerned that the Philippines may have difficulty should it apply to join the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), whose members require very open cross border investment,” he said in a text message.

The Philippines is interested to join the TPP, which seeks to set high standards for a bloc representing more than half of global output and over 40 percent of world trade, if and when it opens to new members.

The deal is currently being negotiated by the US and 11 other Pacific countries.

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