NEDA chief says ABS-CBN franchise issue may spook investors

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2020 08:39 PM

MANILA - Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia on Wednesday said the possible shutdown of ABS-CBN Corp. may "have some adverse effects on investments" as tit-for-tat about the Philippines' largest broadcast station creates "uncertainty."

"As an academic and economist, I think it will have some adverse effects on investments. There will be some discouragement," Pernia told reporters in the Senate when asked about the possible shutdown of ABS-CBN's broadcast operations. 

Last week, Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Supreme Court to invalidate ABS-CBN's franchise, citing among others its alleged violation of the constitutional ban on foreign ownership in mass media as well as the legality of the company's Pay-Per-View services on a free TV franchise. 

In response, ABS-CBN said Calida's move appeared to be "an effort to shut down ABS-CBN to the serious prejudice of millions of Filipinos who rely on the network for news, entertainment and public service." 

The leading network also insisted that it "complies with all pertinent laws governing its franchise and has secured all necessary government and regulatory approvals for its business operations." 

Should Calida's petition prosper, about 11,000 ABS-CBN employees, as well as workers from related industries, could be hurt by retrenchments. 

Pernia refused to comment on how a massive layoff could affect the country's economy.

'INVESTORS WILL APPRECIATE'

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III differed from Pernia's view, saying investors also look for certainty in governance. 

"What investors also look for is that if there are rules, rules are implemented. If there are laws, laws are implemented," Dominguez said in a separate interview.

"The other thing that investors will appreciate is that we went through the legal process, that we followed the proper process to do things," he said. 

At least 11 bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise have yet to be heard in the House of Representatives. 

Meantime, a Senate public services committee hearing on issues surrounding ABS-CBN's franchise application has been slated on February 24, 2020.