Foreign Ownership restrictions enshrined in the Constitution should be kept, if only because Filipinos have greater stake in the country’s development, President Benigno S.C. Aquino III told a gathering of alumni of US schools on Wednesday night.
Responding to a question on business groups’ long-standing plea to ease constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership in certain industries, Mr. Aquino said he had "a nationalistic trait in me."
"With regard to the 60-40 law...one would want to have...the majority control in Filipino hands because, at the end of the day, if something happens, there is a Filipino who will care for this country," a transcript released by Malacañang to reporters yesterday quoted Mr. Aquino as saying at the general assembly of the Joint Alumni Clubs at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City.
"We might have in-and-out investors that -- I don’t know if we can count on them to the same degree that they would support the drives of our country."
The Constitution limits foreign ownership to 40% in certain businesses, particularly those involving natural resources and public utilities. This restriction is operationalized in the Foreign Investments Negative List, which enumerates specific economic activities where foreign equity is either banned or limited.
Asked if Mr. Aquino’s remark was a policy statement, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing yesterday that "the President’s position...with respect to charter change (is) there are other more important matters to be solved without necessarily amending the Constitution."
Leaders of foreign chambers were cautious in their reaction.
"We in the JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines) support all practical efforts to remove restrictions from the 1987 Constitution. Anything that will encourage free trade will benefit the country," Rhicke Jennings, president of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. said in a phone interview.
Hubert d’Aboville, president of the Eureopean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said separately by phone that keeping the ownership cap "will not help us bring in investors who we believe are badly needed for infrastructure projects and tourism."
He added that his chamber will likely seek a meeting with Mr. Aquino, Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima and Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo to seek clarification on this issue. -- NMG
Source: Business World; Front Page; 18 May 2012