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British Chamber: Passage of priority bills to support local economy

The British Chamber of Commerce Philippines (BCCP) expects the swift passage of priority bills amending the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA), Public Service Act (PSA) and Foreign Investment Act (FIA), as they will be integral in attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs), and are expected to contribute in boosting the country’s economic growth and recovery.

The chamber hopes that the final version of the RTLA will reduce the barrier to FDIs as low as possible, as it noted there had been little changes in foreign ownership in the country’s retail sector since the RTLA was passed in 2000.

For BCCP, it is important to minimize the restriction now to allow more retail enterprises to operate in the Philippines, which will benefit Filipino customers. It highly prioritizes the said bill, as one of its key sectors includes retail. Significantly, the chamber is receiving growing interest from United Kingdom (UK)-based companies interested in the country’s retail sector.

Proposed amendments of the FIA are also expected to increase the entry of FDIs and technology transfer. Additionally, the proposed amendments aim to enable foreign ownership of small and medium-sized enterprises with a minimum paid-up capital of less than $100,000 if they involve advanced technology, or employ at least 15 direct-hired workers. The bill is likewise seen to improve technology transfer, raise foreign exchange from exports, and lead to higher tax revenues.

Meanwhile, proposed amendments to the PSA, according to the chamber, will encourage new investments from foreign firms in telecommunications, transportation, and other services which will result in greater competition. Filipinos, for instance, will have greater and improved choices, experience better services, and enjoy lower costs on telecommunications and transportation.

Moreover, Chris Nelson, BCCP executive director and trustee, expresses his appreciation to the House of Representatives’ goal and commitment to quickly pass the priority reforms: “I look forward to additional developments that will be made in the next three months. As such, the British Chamber’s main objective is to send a powerful message to foreign investors, particularly British businesses, that the Philippines remains a great destination for investments.”

Moreover, the UK is an important economic partner and ally of the Philippines. In 2019 two-way trade was valued at $1.3 billion (£944 million), which positions the UK at 18th place among foreign trading partners. Notably, the former is now looking at joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP, one of the largest free-trade areas in the world, where the Philippines has also expressed interest in joining. The BCCP believes it is strategically important to engage with the UK further, as it now pursues independent trade policies championing rules-based free and fair trade.

Overall, the chamber will continue to highlight business opportunities to British companies. It believes it is necessary to emphasize the country’s advantage and great potential for attracting long-term investments. To achieve such, the Philippines, it said, should continue reducing trade barriers and ease investment restrictions by amending the RTLA, FIA and PSA, as the passage of these bills will support the recovery of the local economy.