Japan firms urge Philippines to ease limits on foreign stakes

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Japan firms urge Philippines to ease limits on foreign stakes
Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez delivers a speech at the Philippine Economic Forum in Tokyo, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the delegation are on a three-day official visit to Japan.
AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko

TOKYO – Japanese business groups urged the Philippines yesterday to speed up the lifting of constitutional restrictions in doing business in the country, describing it as a major obstacle in increasing foreign direct investments (FDI).

Teruo Asada, co-chairman of the Japan-Philippines Economic Cooperation Committee, stipulated these terms during the Philippine Economic Forum held at the Prince Park Tower here as part of the activities during President Duterte’s three-day official visit.

With Japan’s continuing infrastructure development support to the Philippines, Asada said the business leaders are pushing for amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

“We expect the Philippines to relax constitutional restriction on foreign investments,” he said at the opening of the Philippine Economic Forum.

“Constitutional restriction a major obstacle in increase of foreign direct investments,” he said, noting the Japanese government had allocated ¥240 billion for infrastructure development in the Philippines.  He was apparently referring to the Malolos-Manila-Cavite train system signed during the previous administration.

The 60-40 foreign ownership restrictions are embodied in the current charter.

In his presentation of the Philippine plan,  Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the administration is working on having a Constitutional convention “to open up those areas that limit our economy.”

The Philippine Congress is now working on the charter amendments through a Constitutional Assembly.

It can be recalled that Duterte has been supportive of charter change and the shift to federalism.

 Citing a report of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Asada  also expressed Japan’s support to the public-private partnership (PPP) program, which includes the construction of six airports and a number of LRT projects aimed at improving the transportation system.

 “We have high expectations in Duterte leadership (in the) executive power,” Asada said, adding the Philippines is a good investment destination for roads, railways, airports and energy.

All these can be achieved “based on mutual respect and benefit” between the two countries, he said.

Masataka Fujita, secretary general of the ASEAN Japan Centre, said the Philippines is one of the “promising countries for investors” such as  the manufacture of bicycles and cars as well as parts.

Dominguez, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, NEDA secretary general Alex Pernia and Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol  presented to the traders what areas they can invest in.

 “We hope that the partnership with Japan, developed through the years, will be steadfast in having a more integrated economy, Pernia said.

Dominguez also cited the goal of the Duterte administration “ to bring down poverty rate from 26.5 percent to 17 percent by 2022.”

The Philippines-Japan Economic Cooperation Committee consists of leading businessmen in the two countries, formed in 1974.  The have forged a special agreement   of economic cooperation to develop mutually beneficial relations to promote, strengthen and expand trade, economic, scientific technological advancements, exchange information data on economy, foreign trade, trade rules and regulations, and render necessary assistance to business endeavors in both countries.

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