Senate updates 30-year-old foreign investment law

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WITH a vote of 21, zero objections and no abstentions, the Senate on Tuesday approved in third and final reading the bill amending the 1991 Foreign Investment Act, one of three liberalization bills certified urgent by the president Duterte.

Senators making up the Senate contingent on the bicameral conference committee tasked with reconciling conflicting provisions with the House version are expected to be appointed today.

The chamber rushes deliberations, meanwhile, on two more, two amending laws – the bill updating the 80-year-old Civil Service Act (PSA) and the Retail Liberalization Act.

The executive had pushed for these measures in the hope of attracting more investment in order to revive an economy plunged into recession, with millions of workers displaced, following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The House of Representatives had previously adopted the three measures at third and final reading.

The Senate Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Imee Marcos, sponsored the measure.

The previous chairman of the committee, Sherwin Gatchalian, began the FIA’s review in mid-2018 to assess whether the objective of the law had been met when it liberalized the entry of foreign investors in 1991.

Incorporated into Republic Act 7042, later amended by RA 8179, the Foreign Investment Act (FIA) passed by Congress in 1991 governs all foreign investment in the Philippines.

Gatchalian had noted earlier that “after 1991 it was never revised. So we want to see if this AIF is still appropriate today and if we are reaping the benefits of this law. “

The amended AIF authorizes the establishment of the Investment Promotion Council, to address the grievances of foreign investors, including electricity supply and connectivity, as well as inadequate infrastructure.

As part of the drive to liberalize and attract more investors, the bill reduces the number of direct hires foreign companies must have from 50 to just 15 workers.

Foreign enterprises are also allowed by the measure to set up and own 100 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises.


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