Foreign chambers urge opening of construction sector
(The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) of the Philippines is urging the opening of the country’s construction industry and the engineering sector to foreign players for the Duterte administration to attain its ambitious infrastructure development goals.

Given the government’s focus on infrastructure development which is fully supported by the business community, JFC said it would be necessary to create an environment in which infrastructure projects can be implemented effectively and timely.

“In our view, it will be necessary to open up the construction industry as well as the engineering sector at large to foreign players as it will lower costs, facilitate technology transfer, and bring back Filipino engineers to the country,” JFC said in a statement over the weekend.

“Government agencies should be partners in making sure that the policies of fair competition under the Philippine Competition Act are implemented in the sectors they regulate,” it added.

The JFC cited the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB) as among the agencies which has undermined fair competition in the country.

The group said PCAB has limited accreditation of foreign contractors to 40 percent even when there is nothing in Philippine law that restricts the ownership of foreign contractors.

“In this respect we are very encouraged by the support coming from the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) which filed an ‘amicus curiae’ brief with the Supreme Court, encouraging that the Supreme Court will make an early decision on the pending case between Manila Water and the PCAB,” the JFC said.

In its first amicus curiae brief filed before the SC last December, the PCC sent its expert opinion to an ongoing case between the Manila Water Co. Inc. and PCAB, wherein the anti-trust authority highlighted the importance of relaxing existing restrictions in the construction industry.

With the construction industry playing an important role in economic development, the PCC said competition in the construction industry would result in improvements in production processes, leading to economic benefits for the country.

PCAB, as the country’s authorized licensing body, currently issues two types of licenses to contractors – regular and special licenses.

Local firms can be granted a regular license, which gives them continuing authority to engage in many contracting activities throughout a one-year period.

Foreign firms, meanwhile, can only be granted a special license, and they will need to have a separate license for each contract activity.

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