Investors wooed via charter change, other measures

Constitutional amendments and other measures are being implemented to liberalize the entry of foreign businesses, a Cabinet official told prospective investors last week.

“President [Rodrigo] Duterte has committed to open up our economy,” the Finance department quoted Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd as saying at a business forum in Tokyo last Friday.

”There are two ways we open up our economy to more foreign investments,” he said, starting with a review of the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) that began in May this year.

“A window opened for us to review that list. We are currently reviewing it with the idea of removing areas such as construction and other areas to foreign investments,” Dominguez said.

The second step, meanwhile involves relaxing foreign ownership restrictions in certain industries via amendments to the Constitution, which will require the cooperation of Congress

“[T]he President has called for a revision of our Constitution, which we believe will start probably next year or in about 12 months,” Dominguez said.

The Finance chief has said that he favors lifting foreign ownership limits in certain areas, except for land, to generate more foreign investments.

Citing data from the 2016 Asean Investment Report, the Finance department said the Philippines continued to lag behind most of its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of foreign direct investments.

Net FDI going to the country was $5.724 billion in 2015, representing only 4.7 percent of the regional net FDI inflow of $120.818 billion.

Singapore accounted for half with $$61.284 billion, followed by Indonesia with $16.916 billion (14 percent ), Vietnam with $11..8 billion (9.8 percent), Malaysia with $11.289 billion (9.3 percent) and Thailand with $8.027 billion (6.6 percent).

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