MANILA - Several foreign chambers in the Philippines said on Monday they are backing the passage of a measure that aims to differentiate public utilities from public services to boost foreign investments in the country.
Plenary debates on Senate Bill 2094 or the amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA) started on Monday. The House approved its version of the bill on March 10, 2020, the joint chambers of commerce said in a statement.
The bill approved in the lower House defines public utility to cover 3 sectors: distribution of electricity; transmission of electricity and water pipeline distribution system or sewerage pipeline.
Under the measure, only "natural monopolies" involving the distribution and transmission of electricity, water and sewerage will be considered to be public utilities, the groups said.
The PSA amendments "will match" policies in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the groups added.
The Philippine Constitution states that public utilities must be 60 percent Filipino-owned but it did not provide a definition of public utilities, the statement said.
"We strongly support the passage of this vital legislation and pledge our efforts to bring the reform to the attention of appropriate firms in our member countries in Australia-New Zealand, East Asia, Europe, and North America," the groups said.
Restrictions on foreign investments have created "oligopolies and weakened competition," the groups said.
"Tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment did not come to the Philippines but instead went to our neighbors," the statement said.
Foreign investments in these areas are expected to increase competition, improve technology as well as modernize and lower the prices of services to the benefit of the Filipinos, the business groups said.