Philippines allows full foreign ownership in telco, rail

Philippines allows full foreign ownership in telco, rail

A Manila Light Railway Transit System train travels along an elevated rail track above traffic during rush hour as in Manila, the Philippines, on June 13, 2019. (Photo: Bloomberg)
A Manila Light Railway Transit System train travels along an elevated rail track above traffic during rush hour as in Manila, the Philippines, on June 13, 2019. (Photo: Bloomberg)

The Philippine Congress approved a bill allowing full foreign ownership of telecommunications and railways services, opening up one of the world’s most restrictive economies.

The House of Representatives and the Senate ratified Wednesday night a reconciled bill amending the 85-year-old law that caps foreign ownership of public utilities to 40%. The measure will now be up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval into law.

Senator Grace Poe, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement Wednesday that all industries will be liberalized except electricity distribution, petroleum pipeline transmission, water distribution, seaports and public utility vehicles. Lawmakers already earlier agreed in their versions of the bill that telecommunications, shipping and railways should be further opened to foreign investors.

The Philippines is among the world’s most restrictive economies to foreign direct investment, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “The Philippines must act quickly in terms of carrying out economic reforms that further trade and investment activities,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines President Lars Wittig said before the bill’s passage.

Foreign state-owned enterprises, however, are barred from owning capital in any public utility or critical infrastructure in the Philippines, Poe said. 



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