MANILA - Proposed amendments to the country's Public Service Act, which will allow 100 percent foreign ownership of public utilities, may pave the way for China to own crucial infrastructure in the Philippines, a senator warned Tuesday.
"Kinukuha na ang ating mga likas-yaman sa ating karagatan. Huwag naman nating hayaang pati sariling industriya natin sa lupa, China na rin ang naghahari-harian. Ano na ang matitira sa Pilipinas?" Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in a statement.
(Our marine resources are being exploited. Let's not allow China to also own our infrastructure. What will be left to the Philippines?)
China may use the measure as leverage against the Philippines when it comes to disputes in the West Philippine Sea, she added.
In the proposed amendments to the PSA, the sectors to be opened up to 100 percent foreign ownership include telecommunications and transportation.
The lawmaker said improving services in the Philippines should not come at the expense of national security.
"Sa panahon pang tinataboy ang ating mga mangingisda sa ating mga teritoryo, paano tayo makakasiguro na hindi rin itataboy ng Tsina ang mga Pilipinong manggagawa sa mga industriyang gusto niyang pasukan?" she said.
(At a time when our fishermen are being driven away from our territory, how can we ensure that China will not also throw out Filipino workers in the industry it plans to own?)
"We should heighten restrictions on foreign ownership as China’s encroachment in the WPS (West Philippine Sea) escalates; not make it easier for her to establish a stronghold in our own land,” she added.
Hontiveros also said there were still unresolved national security concerns on existing public utilities in which China has a 40 percent stake, such as the main power grid system, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), as well as the country's third telco, Dito Telecommunity.
In 2019, the senator filed Senate Resolution No. 223 to conduct an investigation and a national security audit of the operations and facilities of the NGCP.
That same year, Hontiveros also filed Senate Resolution 137 to investigate the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ deal with Dito, which allowed the telco to build facilities in the AFP’s camps and stations.
"We are all for economic development, but never at the expense of our national dignity and sovereignty," she said.
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.