Puno panel urged to ease foreign ownership in PH telcos

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A lawmaker on Sunday, April 29, urged the consultative committee tasked by President Duterte to draft possible changes to the 1987 Constitution to consider relaxing the restrictions to foreign ownership of Philippine telecommunications, mass media, and educational institutions.

?We have to allow greater foreign participation in certain economic sectors if we are to quickly attract fresh investments, create new jobs and improve services in the years ahead,? Buhay party-list rep. Lito Atienza said.

Atienza called ?counterproductive? the provision restricting Philippine telecommunications to entities at least 60 percent held by Filipinos.

?Owing to the foreign equity limit, we now have slowest average Internet connection speed in all of Asia, and Filipinos have for years been forced to live with the substandard broadband services of two dominant suppliers,? Atienza said.

Article 12, Section 11 of the Constitution limits foreign equity in Philippine public utilities, including telecommunications, to no more than 40 percent.

The 25-member consultative committee led by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno is now reviewing the Constitution. The panel is expected to submit its recommendations to the President, who intends to transmit the proposals to Congress.

According to Atienza, the constitutional provision forbidding any foreign equity in Philippine mass media ?has become totally irrelevant amid rapid technological advances.?

?In fact, the prohibition has been rendered meaningless by Internet streaming as well as global broadcasting via cable and satellite TV,? Atienza said.

Under Article 16, Section 11 of the Constitution, only citizens of the Philippines, or corporations, cooperatives or associations wholly owned and managed by Filipinos, may own and operate mass media.

?We disallow majority foreign ownership of Philippine educational institutions, yet we send our brightest children to study overseas,? Atienza. ?We might as well allow the best institutions of higher learning abroad to set up wholly owned subsidiaries here.?

Under Article 14, Section 4 of the Constitution, all educational institutions, except those established by religious groups and mission boards, have to be owned solely by citizens of the Philippines, or by firms at least 60 percent owned by Filipinos.

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