Duterte to sign amendments to PSA

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The proposed amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA) are expected to be signed into law today (Monday), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

“This is scheduled to be signed on Monday (today),” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said during a webinar of the Letran Graduate School over the weekend.

The amendments to the PSA approved by Congress last February will allow up to 100 percent foreign equity in sectors such as telecommunications, as well as air carriers, domestic shipping, railways and subways.

Once the bill is signed into law, Lopez said the country is expected to attract more global players.

“Similarly, there will be increased competition in terms of services and products, which will generate competitive pricing to the benefit of consumers,” he said.

With more players in the market, he said usual complaints on weak telecom signal, internet speed, as well as cost of internet data would be addressed.

He said the government is also working on opening up renewable energy to up to 100 percent foreign equity instead of just 40 percent by amending Republic Act 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 implementing rules and regulations.

The amendment to the PSA is among the reforms being pushed by the DTI to help make the country more attractive to foreign investments and support economic recovery from the pandemic.

Earlier, Duterte signed into law the amended Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Foreign Investments Act, which also seek to remove the barriers to the entry of foreign investments.

In the same event, Lopez said the DTI remains hopeful the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement would be ratified within the current Congress, which is currently on a break until May 22 for the election campaign period.

RCEP, which creates the world’s largest free trade area, is an agreement among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ members Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and trade partners Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand. It represents 30 percent of the global gross domestic product.

Lopez said the DTI is offering to hold a briefing to each of the seven to eight senators who still have questions on RCEP and want to study the trade pact further.

“We’ve given many materials and have offered individual briefings for them. Hopefully, we’ll be able to finish those so we can have this ratified when they resume [session] on May 23 onwards,” he said.

He said the country could lose investment opportunities and see its exports market share eroded if the trade pact is not ratified, as investors would opt to go to other RCEP participating countries.

RCEP entered into force last Jan. 1.

Lopez said the DTI is also hopeful the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) with the United Arab Emirates will be signed within the month or next month.

Under the IPPA, a joint committee on investments will be established to serve as a platform to more closely coordinate and collaborate in implementing focused investment promotions.

Lopez said the Philippines is also pushing for the inclusion of more products including footwear in the talks for the renewal of the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) which expired in December 2020.

“This adds to the value of making the Philippines as a manufacturing location for products, as products manufactured in the country can enter this GSP market at zero percent tariff,” he said.

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