Davao Oriental 2nd district Rep. Joel Mayo Almario’s push to have Filipino contractors favored over foreign contractors with regard to construction activities in the Philippines has been mirrored by his House of Representatives colleagues.
The Mindanao lawmaker filed last October 2 House Bill (HB) No.7816, which seeks to amend Sections 19 and 20 of Republic Act (RA) No.4566 or the existing Contractors’ License Law as a way to protect the interests of Philippine construction companies.
The Almario bill, which imposes certain qualifications on foreign contractor participation in local construction activities, has been referred to the Committee on Civil Service and Professional Regulation for proper action. Iligan lone district Rep. Frederick Siao chairs the House panel.
Over the following three weeks, two measures of similar ilk were also filed although they are currently not yet referred to any House committee.
In HB No.7893, author CWS Party-list Rep. Romeo Momo Sr. said he intends to strengthen the safeguards for domestic micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the local construction industry.
Filed on October 16, Momo’s bill aims to “put Filipino first by ensuring that with the entry of foreign contractors, Filipino industry, labor and materials are given preference, instead of allowing foreign workers and suppliers to earn the lion’s share of local projects.”
Another measure—HB No.7918—was filed by ACT-CIS Party-list Reps. Jocelyn Tulfo, Eric Yap, and Niña Taduran on October 22.
Like Almario, the trio believes that Filipinos must be given preference when it comes to construction, which they called the “fastest growing sector and among the biggest contributors of jobs.”
According to the ACT-CIS solons, their proposed measure would ensure that local construction companies are “uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of the economic recovery” from the financial difficulties caused by the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.
The three pro-local contractor measures are expected to clumped together under the Civil Service and Professional Regulation panel once they are finally taken up for consideration.
The single biggest reason behind the Davao Oriental solon’s filing of HB No.7816 was a Supreme Court (SC) ruling last August wherein it said that the Contractors’ License Law doesn’t explicitly prohibit foreign firms from participating in local government contracts to implement local projects. Simply put, foreign contractors can apply for regular contractors’ licenses, thereby putting them on equal footing with their Filipino counterparts.
Almario, though his bill, wants to allow foreign contractors to participate in a local project only if the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB) and the implementing government agency jointly certifies that no local contractor is capable of doing the project, especially those of highly-technical nature like underwater subways and long stretches of tunnels.
The license granted to a foreign firm must be on a per-project basis only, he also said.