Gatchalian cites need to accelerate passage of legislative reforms

Published March 12, 2019, 2:24 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Mario Casayuran
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian on Tuesday called on the Senate to accelerate the passage of much-needed legislative reforms designed to make the country more adaptable to current and future business demands and trends.

Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“There is an actual need to amend the country’s current economic laws to foster a more competitive business environment in the Philippines,” he stressed.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate economic affairs and energy committees, issued the statement following the executive branch’s renewed call for the next Congress to lift foreign ownership limits under the 1987 Constitution amid the slowdown of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow in 2018.

“Nananatiling isang malaking hadlang sa pag-unlad ng ating bansa ang restrictive na mga batas at polisiya natin sa foreign investments. Talagang napapanahon na muling pag-usapan ang pag-amiyenda sa ating mga batas upang mas ma-encourage ang mga dayuhang namumuhunan na magbukas ng mga negosyo dito sa Pilipinas,” he said. (Our progress would continue to be blocked by restrictive laws and policies on foreign investments. It is time that we debate on amendments of our laws so as to encourage foreigners to invest and open their businesses in the Philippines.)

“We should take advantage of our good economic performance by further harnessing the country’s potential for foreign investment. This starts by reviewing and updating our laws to encourage the influx of foreign capital through the development of a more investment-friendly climate,” he added.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), FDI attracted by the Philippines slowed by 4.4 percent to $9.8 billion in 2018 from $10.3 billion in 2017 amid the sharp drop on net investments in equity capital.

In 2017, the Philippines’ FDI of $10.3 billion paled in comparison with most of its peers in Southeast Asia, trailing behind the likes of Singapore ($63.57 billion), Indonesia ($22.17 billion) and Vietnam ($14.10 billion).

Gatchalian pointed out the Philippines “continues to lag behind its ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors in terms of capturing foreign investment due to the country’s relatively restrictive and less competitive economic policies.”

The lawmaker said he has championed several economic reform bills that aim to foster an inclusive, efficient, and competitive business environment in the Philippines, and ensure the country will capture a lion’s share of foreign investments.

Among these is Senate Bill (SB) 2102 or An Act Amending Republic Act No. 7042, otherwise known as the Foreign Investments Act (FIA) of 1991, which provides clarity to foreigners who are interested in investing in small and medium enterprises or practicing their profession in the Philippines.

With SB 2102, Gatchalian proposes to update FIA’s declaration of policy to encapsulate inclusive economic growth, advancements in technology, and the dynamic relationships among global and regional economies.

The bill also mandates the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), in cooperation and consultation with the Board of Investments, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and other pertinent government agencies to conduct an annual review of the country’s Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) to ensure that the list is aligned with this policy.

Moreover, SB 2102 seeks to amend Section 4 of the FIA to expressly exclude “the practice of professions” from the coverage of the FIA, thus emphasizing that the law only governs equity investments in the Philippines by non-Filipinos.

Gatchalian renewed his call for the removal of anti-competitive restrictions on foreign investments, pointing to key amendatory measures he has filed to erase these restrictions from key economic laws including the Public Services Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

“With global growth expected to moderate in 2019, it is time for us to pass legislative reforms that are responsive to the needs of the domestic economy and, at the same time, accommodate the dynamics of the regional and global environment,” he said.