President Rodrigo Duterte hasn’t been able to make good on his promise of charter change but Congress is doing what it can in the time left before the President steps down on June 30, 2022. The Public Service Act is 85 years old. It is obsolete yet it is only now that this issue is being addressed. Writing for BusinessWorld Online, Victor Andres C. Manhit in his piece “Sovereignty and economic advancement are not binary options” writes…
Amending the Public Service Act (PSA) is an appropriate and timely move by our legislators. The manifest intention is very clear — open up the public service/utility industry to more competition, especially during this time of pandemic. Through this, we would be able to encourage the entry of more foreign direct investments (FDIs), which, if managed correctly, will improve the delivery of public services and lead to the creation of more jobs.
Dindo Manhit is the President of Stratbase-ADR Institute. It is supposed to be a think-tank of sorts but functions more as a lobbying firm. It is bankrolled by former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. Manhit registers his apprehension over the Senate and House versions of the amendment by arguing that sovereignty and allowing foreign investors to control critical infrastructure is not mutually-exclusive but inclusive. It’s his way of saying that the status quo should be maintained; telecoms should be controlled by a Filipino-owned corporate majority.
The reality is that this does not hold true. Former Ambassador to Greece Rigoberto Tiglao has exposed how SingTel, the Salim group and the Japanese NTT have majority shareholdings in Globe and PLDT. The fact is, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been powerless in enforcing the Constitutional limit on foreign ownership of a domestic corporation as further defined in the corporation code. This is a major issue going into the May 2022 election. The pandemic has tipped the economy into recession.
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The other day, Senator Franklin Drilon expressed alarm about the country’s debt levels even if there was no need to do so. The debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 54.5%. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) average since the pandemic is 51.5%. Other more advanced economies have higher ratios with some reaching as high as over 100%. The country’s economy cannot be financed by borrowings which is why increased foreign direct investments (FDIs) is imperative if the economy is to stage a recovery. What Manhit does not say is that the oligarchs are clearly threatened by these reform measures pending in Congress.
On that note, it is interesting that Manhit quotes Senator Grace Poe who asserts that “it is incumbent upon Congress and the concerned administrative agencies to make sure that those investing in our country are above board and are not controlled by a foreign state.” I doubt very much that Senator Poe applies as good a grasp of the issues in the manner that Ralph Recto did as Chair of the Committee on Public Service. Poe’s weakness has been made evident in several committee hearings in the past where she was presiding. This is why there is a need for the public to be focused on issues in this election cycle. The Opposition has not presented a clear platform of government moving forward. I was expecting this from the 1Sambayan launch last June 12. Unfortunately, it was all the old rhetoric and propaganda about “freedom” and “democracy” being “at stake” on May 2022.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has done an excellent job of managing the economy in the five years he has been at the helm of the Cabinet’s economic cluster. Leftist-militant groups insist the government should give more fiscal stimuli but Dominguez has been adamant on his position that infrastructure investments are the best approach to pump-priming the economy because it generates jobs and tax revenues for the government. The public should keep their guard up as the oligarchs will be running candidates who will serve to protect their interests. The problem with the opposition’s economic gurus is they practice voodoo economics in favor of their oligarch patrons. We should vote into office candidates who present platforms about moving forward instead of those who insist on maintaining the status quo.
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