‘Philippines should revise foreign ownership cap to attract investments’

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
�Philippines should revise foreign ownership cap to attract investments�
Speaking before the media after his courtesy call on president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. yesterday, Jahnsen said the government of Norway and several Norwegian companies are specifically interested in investing in offshore wind, solar and hydro energy.
Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Norwegian government and private sector are willing to pour in more investments in the Philippines in the area of renewable energy, but the current cap on foreign ownership of companies has to be revised, Norwegian Ambassador Bjorn Jahnsen said.

Speaking before the media after his courtesy call on president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. yesterday, Jahnsen said the government of Norway and several Norwegian companies are specifically interested in investing in offshore wind, solar and hydro energy.

“Norway has big investments in the Philippines in renewable energy and more companies and more investments will come in the coming years – offshore winds, floating solar and also hydro. So, that’s the plan for the future for Norway and the Philippines, really to increase our imprints on renewable energy in the country,” he said.

Jahnsen, however, admitted that enticing investments on renewable energy would require “some adjustments” and policy shift on the part of the Philippine government, particularly on foreign ownership.

“For instance, foreign companies should be able to own a majority of equity in these kinds of investments as they often are investments involving several billions of dollars and foreign investors would like to have a certainty of having a majority stake in their investments,” Jahnsen said.

Under the 1987 Constitution foreigners are only allowed to own up to 40 percent stake in companies operating in the Philippines, while the remaining 60 percent must be owned by Filipinos.

Citing a study by the World Bank titled “A Roadmap on Offshore Wind for the Philippines,” Jahnsen said that tapping offshore wind energy could generate about 50,000 “good-paying” jobs for Filipinos.

“The World Bank talks about up to 50,000 jobs, good paying jobs, for Filipinos if you are successful in developing this new sector (offshore wind energy),” Jahnsen said.

Jahnsen said that Norway can also extend technical assistance to the Philippines in its shift to renewable energy, particularly to offshore wind energy.

“Norway has one of the first big projects of this right now being developed. This is a great opportunity for the Philippines for plenty supply of energy. As you know, the country is growing in economy and energy consumption is increasing. So, offshore wind is really one of your best bets for the future,” Jahnsen said.

Marcos’ sister, Sen. Imee Marcos, during the 18th Congress had filed Senate Bill No. 1024 which aims “to amend the Foreign Investments Act of 1991 and ease restrictions on foreign direct investments in order to attract more multinational enterprises to the country.”

Under the proposed bill, foreigners in select business sectors will be allowed full ownership of companies operating in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, at a separate press briefing after her courtesy visit to the president-elect yesterday, Romanian Ambassador Raduta Dana Matache said her government is also willing to help the incoming Marcos administration in its efforts to tap renewable energy.

“In Romania, for the last decades, 50 percent of our energy consumption comes from clean energy – 25 percent from nuclear energy and 25 percent from hydroelectric power plants. This is clean energy. Every country in the world is interested in how to expand the use of clean energies. And I believe that we have agreed that there is ample room for cooperation in this area,” Matache said.

Ambassador Juha Markus Pyykkö of Finland has urged Marcos Jr. to uphold the Philippine government’s condemnation of Russia in connection with its attack against Ukraine.

Speaking to media after his courtesy call on Marcos at his headquarters in Mandaluyong City yesterday, Pyykkö cited President Duterte’s signing of United Nations General Assembly resolution last February joining 140 countries in “explicit condemnation” of Russia over its “unprovoked armed aggression” against Ukraine.

“The Philippines has been in the group of countries condemning the aggression and what I convey to the president-elect is that I hope his administration will continue to appreciate and respect this approach from the Philippine side in the future as well,” Pyykkö said.

Pyykkö said that Finland and the Philippines can work together in areas of trade, cyber security, maritime security and in asserting adherence to international laws, adding that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine was a “severe breach of international law and the international-rule-based order.”

“As a European Union member-state, we want to work with upholding international law and rule-based order,” Pyykkö said.

“Traditionally, the Philippines has been a very active and solid member of the United Nations so we have to work in order to preserve the multilateral international rules-based system and that’s very important,” he added.

Pyykkö lamented that Finland, sharing a land border of 1,300 kilometers with the Russian Federation, has been affected by the latter’s aggression against Ukraine.

“That has totally changed the security situation in my country and in the neighborhood there. And as the act of aggression by Russia, it’s a breach of international law, it’s not a European issue, it’s a global international issue,” Pyykkö said.

Just last Monday, Russian Ambassador Marat Pavlov paid his courtesy call on Marcos.

Pavlov said that the conflict situation in Ukraine was discussed during his meeting with Marcos but only “very briefly.”

“As far as I understand, the president-elect would like to continue his independent [foreign] policy and to cooperate with the Russian Federation,” Pavlov said.

Instead, Pavlov said he discussed Russia’s willingness to help the Philippines to satisfy its need for oil, gas and other sources of energy.

Marcos, during the campaign period, maintained a neutral position regarding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, saying that Philippines does not need to take sides. He, however, later issued a statement saying that he is united with the rest of the world in calling for Russia “to respect Ukraine’s freedom and its citizens’ democratic way of life.”

Meanwhile, in a separate courtesy call on Marcos yesterday, Ambassador Titanilla Toth of Hungary said her government is willing to expand cooperation with the Philippines in the field of agriculture, water technology and education, adding they could provide more scholarships for Filipinos.

Toth said Hungary is also willing to open more employment opportunities for Filipinos, especially in the hospitality sector and electronics.

South African Ambassador Bartinah Ntombizodwa Radebe-Netshitenzhe also paid a courtesy call, saying that she and the president-elect agreed on working together in promoting and upholding human rights, rule of law and good governance.

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