NEDA eyes release of FINL before end-2017

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National Economic and Development Authority Director General Ernesto M. Pernia (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/
LYN RILLON)

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is planning to release before the end of the year the much-awaited Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL), even as the country’s chief economist asked for further revisions in a recent draft after calling it “too puny in terms of changes.”

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told reporters at the sidelines of the Arangkada Philippines forum on Thursday that he wants the revisions to be “more aggressive,” citing the need to be at par with the norm in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“[We want more] aggressive liberalization because [I have seen] a draft and I find it too puny in terms of the changes. I want it more aggressive. We have to be at par with the other Asean countries,” he said.

When asked to expound on the little changes the draft introduced, he said: “There are many things in there that they are not increasing by 40 to 60 percent equity. I said bring it up to 100 percent for certain areas.”

He said that the executive order (EO) on the revised FINL would be released “before the end of the year.”

Once passed, this would serve as the 11th FINL, following the last one that was released in 2015 under the Aquino administration.

The list, which is reviewed every other year, draws the line for foreign businesses that want to invest in the Philippines, either prohibiting them from entering certain investment areas or restricting them to a minority stake instead.

When asked which ones he would want to be removed from FINL, he cited retail trade, professions, public utilities, and contractors. He did not say which ones he would recommend for a 100 percent equity, citing that he would need to review the list to be more precise.

For telecommunication companies classified under public utilities, Pernia previously said that the government is considering to raise up to 70 percent the maximum share that foreign firms could hold in local telcos, up from the 40 percent at present.

Government officials have been hinting at an earlier release of the FINL for the past months, but kept pushing back the date. To recall, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that the list would be released this May.

Pernia added that he wanted to “drastically” shorten the list, after noting that it is “still a long list.”

“Our argument is we have to be at par with Asean countries. [There is] no choice. Otherwise, we will continue to be left behind,” Pernia said. /kga

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