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DTI seeks FOI exemption for FTA talks

Baring Philippine position may jeopardize negotiations

MANILA, Philippines – While transparency has been promoted following President Duterte’s executive order allowing freedom of information (FOI), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) hopes to keep private details of its trade negotiations with other economies.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said yesterday they are hoping the country’s position before any trade negotiations would remain private as spewing it out to the public may “jeopardize our deal.”

Nonetheless, Lopez said the DTI would have no problem in disclosing details of other transactions.

“We’re open. We’ve always been open. Whatever we need to disclose we will do so. But sensitive details like positions we will take especially if we will enter trade negotiations, we don’t say that. Our position on free trade agreements, especially if we are just proposing it, we need keep it to ourselves first,” he said.

“But offhand, other than that, we see no problem, especially with our agreements and biddings,” Lopez added.

President Duterte last Saturday night signed an executive order implementing FOI which failed to pass into law in Congress.

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A list of information exempted from FOI is currently being drawn up in accordance with laws and the Constitution.

Lopez said DTI will work to further strengthen the country’s trade and investment position globally.

In terms of investment, Lopez said he is in support of amending certain protectionist provisions in the Constitution to encourage more foreign businessmen to enter the Philippines.

“We are in favor of that (easing economic restrictions). If we are to encourage more investments to come in, then (relaxing) Constitutional or other laws that limits foreign ownership can be considered, especially if it definitely will lead to more investments,” he said.

To further make doing business in the country more attractive, the DTI, as ordered by President Duterte, is currently undertaking measures to cut business registration process in the country to one day.

Lopez said the agency is targeting to cut it initially to three days by the end of the year.

“We are working on streamlining the process, especially on business registration, because that’s the most feasible right now. The president mentioned three days. But if we can do one day, we will do one day because we know it can be done,” he said.

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