By Samuel Medenilla
More foreigners could now practice their profession in the Philippines after the government passed new laws to liberalize the country’s service sector, according to the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).
In an interview, PRC chairman Teofilo Pilando Jr. disclosed Congress has recently passed new laws for pharmacy and forestry, which include a reciprocity clause.
Under the reciprocity provision, foreigners would be given the opportunity to practice their profession in the Philippines, if their countries also offer the same privilege to Filipinos.
Another condition for the said clause is that the professional requirements of Philippines and the country of a foreign applicant should “substantially be the same.”
The inclusion of the reciprocity provision in the governing law of pharmacy and forestry has removed both professions in the foreign investment negative list (FINL) of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The FINL contains the list of areas or sectors of the economy where foreign participation is restricted or banned.
There are currently only three remaining professions left in FINL: radiologic technology, criminology and law.
Pilando said there are ongoing efforts to also include a reciprocity clause for radiologic technology and criminology.
The PRC head, however, noted that Filipinos are more likely to benefit from reciprocity clause since it would also give them the opportunity to also practice their professions abroad.
“For a service exporting country, we have a bigger advantage here because we (Filipino professionals) are already abroad. And if we are eventually headed towards borderless global community then we would already have the advantage of institutionalizing (the framework) for it,” Pilando said.
He also allayed fears the new reciprocity would pave the way to foreign professionals flooding the local labor market.
“This would depend on their reciprocity or how they will treat our professionals. If they will impose stringent requirements (to Filipinos) then that will also be our treatment for their nationals,” Pilando said.
Pilando said the contingent from the World Trade Organization (WTO), which visited the country last month, took note of the recent development in the reduction in the country’s FITL.
He pointed out this in preparation for WTO’s upcoming Trade Policy Review (TPR) of the Philippines, which is expected to be held during the first quarter of next year.
Louis Valera, PRC International Commitments Negotiation Division Chief, said WTO representatives also assessed the implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) for seven professions.
Valera noted the WTO expressed considerable interest in the MRA since it is the first such large-scale undertaking in a specific region.
“They asked clarificatory questions like dates of implementation. This is a factor in their metrics to measure the country’s liberalization,” Valera said.
In the review, WTO would assess if the country has already complied with its commitment to “liberalize” its trade and service sector.
The WTO review would likely affect Philippines’ standing in the global economy since it would influence the decision of foreign investors.
In the last TPR for the Philippines, the WTO recognized “flexibility” of the Philippine regulations to allow more foreigners to enter its workforce.