Amendments to Public Service Law, Retail Trade Liberalization Act pushed

MANILA – As part of his continued efforts to pass legislation that can foster economic growth, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon filed twin measures, seeking to amend the 83-year-old Public Service Law and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000 with the end view of attracting foreign investments and improving the quality of consumer goods and services in the country.

Drilon said the restrictive requirements of both laws impede foreign investments in the country.

“I call on the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to include in the Common Legislative Agenda of the 18thCongress the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Public Service Law to help stimulate the economy, promote competition in business and generate more jobs,” Drilon said.

He expressed optimism that Congress will prioritize the passage of these twin economic measures.

Drilon is a known advocate of economic reforms. In the 17th Congress, he authored Republic Act 11232 or the Revised Corporation Code, which introduced various reforms including the “one-person corporation”, and the grant of perpetual life as the default option for corporations.

Senate Bill No. 13 proposes to limit the definition of public utility, while opening up other public services to the market.

Drilon explained that the proposed amendments to the Public Service Law, which was enacted in 1936, will provide a clear definition of public utilities, as he pointed out how the interchangeable use of “public utility” and “public service” has effectively barred foreign entry into the market.

“Congress’ failure to amend the law has effectively resulted in holding the Filipino hostage to poor and inadequate services, such as inefficient public transportation, slow yet expensive telecommunication and internet services, unreliable power and water supply, among others,” Drilon said.

“Opening up these public services to competition will provide our people with better choices, and compel the current players to shape up,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill No. 14 seeks to further relax foreign restrictions by removing investment categories and setting an across the board minimum paid up capital investment equivalent of US$200,000 in Philippine peso.

Under the current Retail Trade Liberalization Act, enterprises with a paid-up capital below US$2.5 million in peso equivalent are reserved exclusively for Filipino citizens and corporations wholly owned by Filipino citizens.

The proposed measure requires reciprocity wherein only nationals or entities from countries allowing the entry of Filipino retailers shall be allowed to engage in retail trade in the Philippines.

The bill also promotes locally manufactured products as it mandates that at least 10% of the aggregate cost of stock inventory of foreign retailers be made in the Philippines.

“These proposed amendments will no doubt result in a greater variety of products, more choices of goods for consumers, inflow of new technology and the employment of more Filipinos”, Drilon said.

During his time as Senate President in the 16thCongress, a number economic reform laws were passed which laid the foundations for a healthy economy. These include the Philippine Competition Act, which outlaws and penalizes anti-competitive agreements; the Cabotage Law to lower the cost of domestic shipping; amendments to the Foreign Investment Negative List, which liberalizes the ownership of lending, adjustment and financing companies; Tax Incentives Monitoring and Transparency Act (TIMTA); the Go Negosyo Law; the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act; and amendments to the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation. He is also the author of the GOCC Governance Act.