By Charissa Luci-Atienza
A leader of the House of Representatives sought on Sunday the swift passage of a bill seeking to amend the 28-year old Foreign Investments Act to boost the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
Leyte Rep. Henry C. Ong, chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, urged the House leadership to include in its priority list the passage of House Bill 8764, which seeks to amend the Foreign Investments Act of 1991.
He made the call as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas disclosed on January 10 that the net foreign direct investments hit $ 8.5 billion in the first ten months of 2019.
“I support HB 8764 because it opens up to foreign investments the small and medium enterprises with paid-in equity capital of up to $200,000.00 — provided that these enterprises involve advanced technology and employ at least fifteen direct employees,” Ong said.
He noted that HB 8764 allows minimum paid-in capital of $100,000 from non-Philippine nationals.
Ong, a member of the House Committee on Economic Affairs, said under the bill, the SMEs can now partner with foreign investors, including those that invest in start-ups.
“I believe HB 8764 will be a catalyst for growth of the SMEs engaged in the creation, development, and rollout of financial technologies and mobile applications for our smart phones and financial inclusion,” he said.
Ong also cited the need for Congress to pass a bill seeking the creation of a Department of Investments Promotion and Development.
He noted how Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam are attracting more foreign investments for having one government agency in charge of investments promotion.
“We have over a dozen plus a host of other smaller bodies which dabble in investment promotion part-time,” he said.
He said the House should pass House Bill 7873, which addresses this issue.
“I am supporting HB 7873 of AANGAT TAYO Party-list Rep. Neil Abayon. I have co-authored it. We really must simplify and make less confusing to domestic and foreign investors the system and ways of investing in the Philippine economy,” Ong said.
HB 7873 seeks the creation of a Department of Investments Promotion and Development to keep an eye on all investment promotion programs and projects.
“I am aware HB 7873 is still pending at committee and this is why I am asking the House leadership to expedite this bill and perhaps get the support of the Executive branch for it to be certified as urgent,” Ong said.
Citing the National Tax Research Center, he said from 2005 to 2016 the Philippines got only 3.62 percent of all the foreign direct investment (FDI) that was poured into ASEAN.
Indonesia got 13.42 percent, Malaysia 9.45 percent, Vietnam 8.7 percent, and Singapore 52.79 percent, Ong noted.