By Ben Rosario
With a vote of 201 in favor and six against, the bill proposing to lift restrictions on the employment of foreign professionals in the country was approved on third and final reading Monday night.
House Bill No. 300 seeks to amend Section 4 and 8 of Republic Act No. 7042 or the Foreign Investment Act of 1991.
It is a consolidation of three bills authored by Reps. Victor A. Yap (NPC, Tarlac); LRay Villafuerte Jr. (NP, Camarines Sur), and Joey Sarte Salceda (PDP-Laban, Albay).
Previously approved by the Lower House during the 17th Congress, HB 300 will further open the Philippines to foreign investors by allowing foreign professionals to be employed in small and medium domestic market enterprises with paid-in capital of $100,000.
However, the bill provides for other requirements for a firm to hire non-Philippine nationals in their enterprise.
Under these provisions, the enterprise should involve advanced technology as determined by the Department of Science and Technology and have under its employ 15 workers.
By excluding the practice of professions from the coverage of the Foreign Investment Negative List, the country may attract direct investments and facilitate the transfer of technologies.
The Professional Regulations Commissions has registered its strong objection to the measure as it warned that it can be a violation of the 1987 Constitution.
“While we understand the intent of the proposed amendment, the PRC is of the view that practice of profession is still a partially nationalized activity given that under the Constitution, the same falls under National Economy and Patrimony albeit with exceptions,” PRC Chairman Teofilo Pilando Jr. stated in a position paper submitted to the House Committees on Economic Affairs and on Trade and Industry.
“To remove it absolutely in the negative list may not be transparent on the limitation to professional practice by foreigners, and may engender an impression that there exists no restriction at all to their practice,” Pilando stressed.
Yap said the doubts raised on the constitutionality of the measure may be unfounded.
“By allowing foreign professionals to practice in the Philippines, they would be able to bring in technology and know-how from abroad, and help create jobs for locals by attracting businesses that require highly skilled professionals in the country,” said Yap.
In his bill, Yap proposed for a lower threshold in the employment requirement for local hires.
The American Chamber of Commerce and six other foreign businessmen organizations in the country welcomed the approval of the measure.
Robert Forbes of AMCHAM said the reduction of the mandatory hiring of 50 local workers by foreign firms doing business in the country will help encourage more foreign investors to do business in the Philippines.