Restrictions retained in 2015 ‘negative list’

June 8, 2015 at 09:04

Posted on June 05, 2015 08:22:00 PM

THE GOVERNMENT has kept virtually unchanged its list of domestic activities and sectors restricted to foreign participation, prompting one business leader to cite anew the need to make the list “less negative”.

Malacañang on Friday published Executive Order No. (EO) 184, dated May 29, that provides the 10th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), keeping largely intact provisions of the preceding order: EO 98 of Oct. 29, 2012.

The sole major change in this year’s list is retention of only pharmacy, radiologic and x-ray technology, criminology, forestry and law as professions from which foreigners are banned.

For several others listed previously under EO 98 — including various engineering disciplines, dentistry, medicine, nursing, real estate services and interior design, among others — foreigners will be “allowed to practice… provided their country allows Filipinos to be admitted to the practice of these professions,” EO 184 read.

But even that change is cosmetic, an officer of one foreign business chamber said, noting that it just reflects arrangements already in place.

Trade official were not responding to queries.

“Reciprocity provisions have been in most laws on professions for many years. What is different in the 10th FINL is that this provision is explained for the first time,” John D. Forbes, senior advisor of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham), said in a text message when sought for comment.

“The new FINL has no legal difference from the previous FINL because none of the laws on the list have been changed to liberalize foreign investment,” he noted.

“AmCham is concerned that the Philippines may have difficulty should it apply to join the TPP, whose members require very open cross-border investment,” Mr. Forbes continued, referring to the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership arrangement in which the Philippines is considering participation.

“We urge the 16th Congress to pass several non-controversial bills before it that will make the next FINL less negative.”

The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines — of which AmCham forms part — and local counterparts submitted to Malacañang last May 15 a list of recommendations to improve the local business environment for executive and legislative action until the end of the Aquino administration on June 30 next year. Counted among recommendations for executive action is reducing the list of industries where foreign participation is restricted, while legislative proposals included one that would open the Constitution to amendments that would lift restrictions on foreign ownership of land, natural resources, media, advertising, and public utilities. — with AMM


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