Philipines Senate approves bill allowing foreign ownership of public services

The Philippines’ Senate approved a bill, late last week, that would allow foreign investment into several sectors, including telecommunications providers.

The bill that allows foreigners to fully own and control firms in key industries in the Philippines like telecommunications and transportation, is one step closer to becoming law after getting an approval from the Senate.

A total of 19 senators voted on last Wednesday in favor of passing on third and final reading Senate Bill (SB) 2094, which would allow 100 percent foreign ownership of public services like telcos, airlines, domestic shipping, and railways and subways.

As such, the definition is significant as telecoms providers may now be classified as a public service, meaning that they are “no longer bound by restrictions on foreign ownership”.

Senate public services committee chairperson Grace Poe said SB 2094 would allow the Philippines to be more competitive with its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, which have long eased restrictions on foreign investors to bring in more jobs and government revenue.

“The main purpose of this measure is to provide consumers with choices, and I believe that by opening our economy to a diverse set of investors, we could provide our fellow Filipinos with more and better choices,” said Senator Grace Poe, a sponsor of the bill.

“We are only making our country more competitve in the world stage. Hindi na tayo mapag-iiwanan (We would no longer be left behind),” she added.

On their side, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan voted against the passage of the bill.

Hontiveros, raised concerns about national security, noting Congress is seeking to open up industries like telcos to foreigners when “we have tech savvy neighbors as well as rogue non-state elements that are directly targeting facilities in the region.”

“By allowing 100% foreign ownership, we are opening our phones, and all our internet-connected devices, appliances, and critical public facilities to foreign state and non-state interests that may have malevolent designs on our national security. This is a fact and the government is aware of the existence of these clear and present threats,” said Hontiveros.