PH to add more sectors allowing 100% foreign ownership

MANILA, Philippines – The government is targeting to release a "shortened" list of investment areas or activities reserved solely for Filipinos by year-end, citing the need to liberalize more sectors and to be at par with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbors.

To do this, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the Philippines will allow more investment areas where foreigners can fully own a company.

"I want a more aggressive liberalization. The draft list is too puny in terms of changes. I want to be more aggressive and to be at par with other ASEAN countries," Pernia told reporters on the sidelines of the Arangkada Philippines Forum 2017 in Pasay City on Thursday, September 14.

In the draft list, some areas were allowed foreign ownership of up to 60%, according to Pernia. "I said bring it up to 100% for certain areas."

Although Pernia declined to enumerate the areas where 100% foreign ownership will be allowed, he said those that are being looked into are "retail, trade, professions, public utilities, and contractors."

Former president Benigno Aquino III in 2015 issued Executive Order No. 184, or the 10th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List, which mainly kept intact the foreign ownership restrictions in the previous list. The government is mandated to release a new list every two years.

"It is being revised now. The final form will be more aggressive. It will be closer to ASEAN [neighbors]. The negative list is still a long list and I want it to be shortened drastically," Pernia said.

Once his office gets comments from all government agencies by the end of the month, Pernia said the revised list will be up for review and approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board.

Under the 10th negative list, investment houses and financing companies regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were allowed up to 60% foreign ownership.

"There is no opposition yet. It is [undergoing] staff work by NEDA, then we'll show it to other agencies. Our argument is we have to be at par with ASEAN countries," Pernia said.

Latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed net inflow of foreign direct investments slid by 14% year-on-year to $3.6 billion in the 1st 6 months of 2017. – Rappler.com